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Full text of "Japan : a record in colour"

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presented to 

Tlbe mntrersitp of Uouonto Xibracp 

1bume 36lafce, JEsq. 

from tbe books of 

Tlbe late Ibonourable JEowaro Blafee 

Chancellor of tbe tnniversttv of (Toronto 

(1876=1900) 






C 1 



V 



JAPAN 



AGENTS IN AMERICA 

THjE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
66 Fifth Avenue, New York 




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+ *• + ■ ^ * ■ ■■ "-^>^*^-^ " ^* 







MISS POMEGRANATE 



AT^i 



JAPAN • A RECORD IN 
COLOUR BY MORTIMER 
MENPES TRANSCRIBED 
BY DOROTHY MENPES- 
PUBLISHED BY ADAM & 
CHARLES BLACK ■ SOHO 
SQUARE • LONDON • W. 






TO MY FRIEND 

THE LADY EDWARD CECIL 

TO WHOSE ENTHUSIASTIC SYMPATHY 

MY WORK IN JAPAN 

OWES SO MUCH OF THE SUCCESS 

IT HAS ATTAINED 



Note 

In this book I endeavour to present, with whatever skill 
of penmanship I may possess, my father's impressions 
of Japan. I trust that they will not lose in force and 
vigour in that they are closely intermingled with my own 
impressions, which were none the less vivid because they 
were those of a child, — for it was as a child, keenly 
interested in and enjoying all I saw, that I passed, 
four or five years ago, through that lovely flower-land 
of the Far East, which my father has here so charmingly 
memorialised in colour. 

DOROTHY MENPES. 

November 1901. 



Vll 



Contents 

CHAPTER I 



PAGE 

Art and the Drama ....... I 



CHAPTER II 

The Living Art ........ 29 

CHAPTER III 

Painters and their Methods ...... 49 

CHAPTER IV 
Placing .......... 75 

CHAPTER V 

Art in Practical Life . . . . . . . 91 

CHAPTER VI 
The Gardens 105 

CHAPTER VII 

Flower Arrangement . . . . . . .113 

ix 



Contents 



CHAPTER VIII 

PAGE 

The Geisha 123 

CHAPTER IX 

Children . . . . • . • • • I 35 

CHAPTER X 

Workers . . . . • • • • • • I 5 I 

CHAPTER XI 

Characteristics . . . . • . .199 



List of Illustrations 



1. Miss Pomegranate 

2. An Actor . 

3. Watching the Play 

4. The Bill of the Play 

5. A Garden . 

6. The Road to the Temple 

7. The Street with the Gallery 

8. Sun and Lanterns 

9. Summer Afternoon 

10. Apricot-Blossom Street 

11. Tea-house by the River 

12. Outside Kioto . 

13. A Blond Day 

14. A Blind Beggar . 

15. The Giant Lantern 

16. Sun and Lanterns 

17. The Empty Tea-house 
I 8. Over the Bridge 

19. The Scarlet Umbrella 

20. Leading to the Temple 

21. By the Light of the Lanterns 

22. "News" .... 

xi 



Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 
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4 

6 
8 

10 
12 

14 

16 

18 

20 

22 

24 

26 

28 

30 

32 

34 
3 6 

38 
40 
42 



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23- 

24. 
25. 
26. 
27. 
28. 
29. 

3°- 

3i- 

32- 

33- 

34- 

35- 
36. 

37- 
38. 

39- 
40. 

41. 

42. 

4-3- 
44. 

45- 
46. 

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48. 

49. 

50. 

52. 
53- 
54- 



A Sunny Temple 

A Rush to the Stall . 

On the Great Canal, Osaka 

After the Festival 

Goldfish 

The Lemon Bridge 

A Tranquil Water-way 

Bearing a Burden 

The End of the Day and th 

In Front of the Stall . 

The Stall by the Bridge 

Street of Pink Lanterns 

Archers 

A Religious Procession 

Reflections 

An Avenue of Lanterns 

The Red Curtain 

" In the Eye of the Sun " 

Flower of the Tea 

A Street in Kioto 

Heavy-laden 

By the Side of the Temple 

Peach-Blossom . 

A Suburban Tea-house 

The Tea-house of the Slen 

Evening 

Blossom of the Glen 

A Family Group 

The Venice of Japan 

An Iris Garden . 

A Sunny Garden 

At Horikiri 



e End of the Fe 



der Tree 



tival 



FACING PAGE 

44 
46 

48 

5° 
52 
54 
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60 

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66 

68 

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74 
76 

78 
80 

82 

84 
86 

88 

90 

92 
96 
98 
100 
102 
104 
106 
108 



Xll 



List of Illustrations 



55- 
56. 

57. 
5 8. 

59- 
60. 

61. 

62. 

63. 

64. 

65. 

66. 

6 7 . 

68. 

69. 

70. 

7i- 

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73- 

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75- 
76. 

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79- 

80. 

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82. 

83- 
84. 

85. 

86. 



Iris Garden 

A Wistaria Garden 

Flower-placing . 

Wistaria . 

A Fete Day 

Butterflies 

Daughters of the Sun 

By the Light of the Lantern 

A Street Scene, Kioto 

Baby and Baby . 

A Jap in Plum-colour 

Sugar-water Stall 

Advance Japan . 

Young japan 

Chums 

A Sunny Stroll . 

The Child and the Umbrella 

A Little Jap 

A By-canal 

Swinging along in the Sun 

A Metal-worker 

Bronze-workers . 

In Theatre Street 

Toys 

The Carpenter . 

Making up Accounts . 

Finishing Touches 

A Back Canal, Osaka 

Bronze-cleaners . 

Stencil-makers . 

Carpenters at Work . 

A Sign-painter's . 



FACING PAGE 


no 




112 




II4 




Il8 




I20 




122 




126 




128 




I30 




I 34 




I36 




138 




I40 




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150 




. 152 




• 15 + 




156 




. 158 




l6o 




l62 




164 




. 166 




l68 




170 




172 




. I74 




I76 




. I78 



Xlll 



List of Illustrations 



A Cloisonne Worker 

A Toy-shop 

A Sweet-stuff Stall . 

Osaka 

A Canal in Osaka 

Umbrellas and Commerce 

Wet Weather . 

94. Playfellows 

95. Buying Sweets 

96. Youth and Age 

97. Lookers-on 

98. Sundown . 

99. Flying Banners 

100. Honeysuckle Street . 



87. 
88. 
89. 
90. 
91. 
92. 

93- 



FACING PAGE 
180 

182 

I84 

186 

188 

190 

192 

194 

I96 

I98 

200 

202 

204 

206 



XIV 



ART AND THE DRAMA 



AN ACTOR 



CHAPTER I 

ART AND THE DRAMA 

I always agree with that man who said, " Let me 
make the nation's songs and I care not who frames her 
laws," or words to that effect, for, in my opinion, nothing 
so well indicates national character or so keenly accen- 
tuates the difference between individuals and nations 
as the way in which they spend their leisure hours ; 
and the theatres of Japan are thoroughly typical of the 
people's character. It would be utterly impossible for 
the Japanese to keep art out of their lives. It creeps into 
everything, and is as the very air they breathe. Art with 
them is not only a conscious effort to achieve the beauti- 
ful, but also an instinctive expression of inherited taste. 
It beautifies their homes and pervades their gardens ; 
and perhaps one never realises this all-dominating power 
more fully than when in a Japanese theatre, which is, 
invariably, a veritable temple of art. But here with us 
in the West it is different. We have no art, and our 
methods merely lead us to deception, while we do not 
begin to understand those few great truths which form 

3 



Japan 

the basis of oriental philosophy, and without which per- 
fection in the dramatic art is impossible. For example, 
the philosophy of balance, of which the Japanese are 
past masters, is to us unknown. The fact that Nature 
is commonplace, thereby forming a background, as it 
were, for Tragedy and the spirit of life to work, has 
never occurred to us ; while the background of our 
Western play is not by any means a plan created by a 
true artist upon which to display the dramatic picture 
as it is in Japan, but simply a background to advertise 
the stage-manager's imitative talent. The result is, of 
course, that the acting and the environment are at 
variance instead of being in harmonic unity. But we 
in the West have not time to think of vague things, 
such as balance and breadth and the creating of pictures. 
What we want is realism ; we want a sky to look like a 
real sky, and the moon in it to look like a real moon, 
even if it travels by clock-work, as it has been known to 
do occasionally. And so real is this clock-work moon 
that we are deceived into imagining that it is the moon, 
the actual moon. But the deception is not pleasant ; in 
fact, it almost gives you indigestion to see a moon, and 
such a moon, careering over the whole sky in half an 
hour. In Japan they would not occupy themselves with 
making you believe that a moon on the stage was a real 
one — they would consider such false realism as a bit of 
gross degradation — but they would take the greatest 
possible pains as to the proper placing of that palpably 
pasteboard moon of theirs, even if they had to hold it 
up in the sky by the aid of a broom-stick. 

4 



WATCHING THE PLAY 



Art and the Drama 

In Japan the scenic work of a play is handled by 
one man alone, and that man is the dramatic author, 
who is almost invariably a great artist. To him the 
stage is a huge canvas upon which he is to paint his 
picture, and of which each actor forms a component 
part. This picture of his has to be thought out in every 
detail ; he has to think of his figures in relation to his 
background, just as a Japanese architect when building 
a house or a temple takes into consideration the sur- 
rounding scenery, and even the trees and the hills, in 
order to form a complete picture, perfect in balance and 
in form. When a dramatic author places his drama 
upon the stage, he arranges the colour and setting of 
it in obedience to his ideas of fitness, which are partly 
intuitive and partly traditional. It is probably necessary 
that his background should be a monotone, or arranged 
in broad masses of colour, in order to balance the 
brilliancy of the action, and against which the moving 
figures are sharply defined. And it is only in Japan 
that you see such brilliant luminous effects on the stage, 
for the Japs alone seem to have the courage to handle 
very vivid colours in a masterly way — glorious sweeps 
of gold and of blue — vivid, positive colour. No low- 
toned plush curtains and what we call rich, sombre 
colour, with overdressed, shifted-calved flunkeys, stepping 
silently about on velvet carpets, shod in list slippers, 
and looking for all the world like a lot of burglars, 
only needing a couple of dark lanterns to complete their 
stealthy appearance. 

Then, there are no Morris-papered anterooms and 

5 



J a p 



an 



corridors in Japan, as we have here — sad bottlegreens 
and browns leading to a stage that is still sadder in 
colour — only a sadness lit up by a fierce glare of 
electric light. 

The true artistic spirit is wanting in the West. We 
are too timid to deal in masses for effect, and we have 
such a craving for realism that we become simply 
technical imitators like the counterfeiters of banknotes. 
Our great and all-prevailing idea is to cram as much 
of what we call realism and detail into a scene as 
possible ; the richer the company, and the more money 
they have to handle, the more hopeless the work 
becomes, for the degradation of it is still more forcibly 
emphasised. Consequently, we always create spotty 
pictures ; in fact, one rarely ever sees a well-balanced 
scene in a Western theatre, and simply because we do 
not realise the breadth and simplicity of Nature. There 
are not the violent contrasts in Nature that our artists 
are so continually depicting : Nature plays well within 
her range, and you seldom see her going to extremes. 
In a sunlit garden the deepest shadow and the brightest 
light come very near together, so broad and so subtle 
are her harmonies. We do not realise this, and we 
sacrifice breadth in the vain endeavour to gain what we 
propose to call strength — strength is sharp ; but breadth 
is quiet and full of reserve. None understands this 
simple truth so well as the Japanese. It forms the very 
basis of oriental philosophy, and through the true per- 
ception of it they have attained to those ideas of balance 
which are so eminent a characteristic of Japanese art. 

6 



THE BILL OF THE PLAY 



Art and the Drama 

When you have balanced force you have reached 
perfection, and this is of course the true criterion <A 
dramatic art. Hut here in the West we must be 
realistic, and if a manager succeeds in producing upon 
the stage an exact representation of a room in Belgrave 
Square he is perfectly content, and looks upon his work 
as a triumph. There is to be no choice: he does not 
choose his room from the decorative standpoint — such 
a thing would never occur to him for a moment — but 
simply grabs at this particular room that he happens to 
know in Belgrave Square, nicknacks and all, and plants 
it upon the stage. His wife, he imagines, has a taste 
i'jr dress, and she dresses the people that are to sit about 
in this room, probably playing a game of "Bridge," 
just as you might see it played any day in Belgrave 
Square. I remember once, when a play of this nature 
was being acted at one of our leading theatres, hearing a 
disgusted exclamation from a man at my side — " Well ! 
if that's all," he growled, "we might go and see a 
game of Bridge played any night " ; and it occurred 
to me as I heard him that the managers will suffer for 
this foolish realism, the public will soon tire of it, for 
they, almost unconsciously, want something altogether 
bigger and finer — let us hope they want art. 

The Japanese are not Jed away by this struggle to 
be realistic, and this is one of the chief reasons why the 
stage of Japan is so far ahead of our stage. If a horse 
is introduced into a scene he will be by no means a real 
horse, but a very wooden one, with wooden joints, just 
like a nursery rocking-horse ; yet this decorative animal 

7 



Japan 

will be certain to take its proper place in the composi- 
tion of the picture. But when realism has its artistic 
value, the Japs will use it to the full. If a scene 
is to be the interior of a house, it will be an interior, 
complete in every detail down to the exquisite bowl of 
flowers which almost invariably forms the chief decora- 
tion of a Japanese room. But suppose they want a 
garden : they do not proceed, as we do, to take one 
special garden and copy it literally ; that garden has to 
be created and thought out to form a perfect whole ; 
even the lines of the tiny trees and the shape of the hills 
in the distance have to be considered in relation to the 
figures of the actors who are to tell their story there. 
This is true art. Then, when you go to a theatre in 
Japan, you are made to feel that you are actually living 
in the atmosphere of the play : the body of the theatre 
and the stage are linked together, and the spectator 
feels that he is contained in the picture itself, that he is 
looking on at a scene which is taking place in real life 
just before his very eyes. And it is the great aim of 
every ambitious dramatic author to make you feel this. 
To gain this end, if the scene is situated by the seashore, 
he will cause the sea, which is represented by that 
decorative design called the wave pattern, to be swept 
right round the theatre, embracing both audience and 
stage and dragging you into the very heart of his 
picture. 

For this same reason, a Japanese theatre is always 
built with two broad passages, called Hanamichi (or 
flower-paths), leading through the audience to the stage, 

8 



A GARDEN 



Art and the Drama 

up which you can watch a Daimio and his gorgeous 
retinue sweep on his royal way to visit perhaps another 
Daimio whose house is represented on the stage. This is 
very dramatic, and greatly forwards the author's scheme 
of bringing you into touch with the stage. But we in 
our Western theatres need not trouble ourselves with 
all this, for we frame our scenes in a vulgar gilt frame ; 
we hem them in and cut them off from the rest of the 
house. When we go to a theatre here, we go to view 
a picture hung up on a wall, and generally a very foolish 
inartistic picture it is too. And even taking our stage 
from the point of view of a picture, it is wrong, for in 
a work of art the frame should never have an inde- 
pendent value as an achievement, but be subordinate to, 
and part of, the whole. All idea of framing the stage 
must be done away with ; else we are in danger of 
going to the other extreme, as some artists have done, 
and cause our picture to overlap and spread itself upon 
the frame. An artist in a realistic mood has been 
known, when painting a picture of the seaside, to so 
crave after texture as to sprinkle sand upon the fore- 
ground, and becoming more and more enthusiastic 
he has at last ended in an exuberance of realism by 
clapping some real shells on to the frame and gilding 
them over. Thus the picture appeared to pour out 
on to its frame. This is all very terrible and inartistic ; 
yet it is but an instance of the kind of mistake that we 
let ourselves in for by the ridiculous method of stage- 
setting which we practise. 

Now, built as the Japanese theatres are, with their 

9 



Japan 

flower-paths leading from the stage, there is no fear of 
such a disaster ; yet Westerners, who have never been 
to Japan, on hearing of the construction of a Japanese 
theatre, are rather inclined to conjure up to their fancies 
visions of the low comedian who springs through trap- 
doors, and of the clown who leaves the ring of the 
circus to seat himself between two maiden ladies in the 
audience ; but if these people were to go to Japan and 
see a really fine production at a properly conducted 
theatre, such an idea would never occur to them 
at all. 

Here and there, however, the unthinking globe- 
trotter, with more or less the vulgar mind, will be in- 
clined to laugh as he sees a richly-clothed actor sweep 
majestically through the audience to the stage ; he will 
point out the prompter who never attempts to conceal 
himself, and the little black -robed supers who career 
about the stage arranging dresses, slipping stools under 
actors, and bearing away any little article that they 
don't happen to want. " How funny and elementary 
it all is ! ' they will remark ; but there is nothing 
elementary about it at all ; these little supers who appear 
to them so amusing are perfect little artists, and are 
absolutely necessary to ensure the success of a scene. 
Suppose Danjuro, the greatest actor in Japan, appears 
upon the stage dressed in a most gorgeous costume, 
and takes up a position before a screen which he will 
probably have to retain for half an hour : these little 
people must be there to see that the sweep of his dress 
is correct in relation to the lines of the screen. The 

10 



THE ROAD TO THE TEMPLE 



Art and the Drama 

placing of this drapery is elaborately rehearsed by the 
supers, and when they step back from their work even 
the globe-trotter is bound to admit that the picture 
created by Danjuro and the screen is a perfectly beautiful 
one, and a picture which could not have been brought 
about by merely walking up and stopping short, or by 
the backward kick that a leading lady gives to her skirt. 
These little supers may go, come, and drift about on 
the stage ; they may slip props under the actors and 
illuminate their faces with torches ; yet the refined 
Japanese gentleman (and he is always an artist) is 
utterly unconscious of their presence. They are dressed 
in black : therefore it would be considered as the height 
of vulgarity in him to see them. Indeed, the audience 
are in honour bound not to notice these people, and it 
would be deemed in their eyes just as vulgar for 
you to point out a super in the act of arranging a 
bit of drapery, as to enter a temple and smell the 
incense there. No Japanese ever smells incense : he is 
merely conscious of it. Incense is full of divine and 
beautiful suggestion ; but the moment you begin to 
vulgarise it by talking, or even thinking, of its smell, 
all beauty and significance is destroyed. 

Everything connected with the stage in Japan is 
reduced to a fine art : the actor's walk — the dignity of 
it ! — you would never see a man walk in the street as 
he would on the stage. And then the tone of voice, 
bearing, and attitude — everything about the man is 
changed. I remember once in Tokio being introduced 
to the manager of a local theatre, whose performance 

n 



Japan 

so much pleased me that I begged the privilege of 
making a few studies before the play began, hinting 
at the same time that I should very much like one or 
two of the actors to pose for me. Then this little 
gentleman began to think and frown and pucker his 
brow, secretly proud that an artist should want to paint 
his work, and also not unwilling to make a little money. 
At last, after much deliberation, he decided that I was 
to have the run of his theatre and ten actors for the 
afternoon, charging three dollars and a half for the 
whole concern. This seemed to me to be fairly reason- 
able ; I did not know of any London theatre that I 
could have hired for three dollars and a half, or even as 
many pounds, and then the company consisted of ten 
actors who were all artists, all loving their work as only 
true artists can. To be sure, it was a suburban theatre, 
and the acting was not of the finest ; probably also 
there was a great deal of exaggeration in the poses ; 
but still it lent itself to decorative work, and answered 
my purpose to perfection. They did not act, but 
merely posed to form a series of pictures, and some 
of the expressions of the actors were extraordinarily 
grotesque, just like a Japanese picture-book. But 
what struck me most of all was the absolute autocracy 
of the little manager, or whatever he called himself— 
the Czar of Russia or General Booth was not in it 
with him for power ! He threw his actors about 
on the stage just as an artist would fling pigment 
on to a canvas ; and his violent whisking of a bit of 
vermilion and apple-green in against a wave was too 

12 



THE STREET WITH THE GALLERY 



Art and the Drama 

dexterous and masterly for anything, and called forth 
my unfeigned admiration. 

The greatest living actor at the present moment in 
Japan is Danjuro — in fact, I should say that he is one 
of the greatest actors in the whole world ; and in order 
to give a true insight into the many beauties of the 
Japanese drama, it seems to me that I cannot do better 
than describe a day that I once spent with this great 
master. 

I was taken to see him by Fukuchi, Japan's 
most eminent dramatist and the greatest of living 
writers. We were shown into a small room with 
spotless mats to await Danjuro's arrival, and my 
attention was at once attracted towards an exquisite 
kakemono that hung on the wall, which was the only 
decoration the room possessed. It was a picture, a 
masterpiece, that seemed to suggest one of the early 
Italian masters ; it impressed me tremendously, and I 
told Fukuchi so. " Ah, I am glad ! ' he exclaimed, 
" for Danjuro, the great master, when I told him 
you were coming and that you were a painter, asked 
me many questions about you. He took much pains 
to discover the quality of art that appealed to you, 
and the side of Nature that you liked the best. He 
also wished to know your favourite flower, and which 
kind of blossom you loved the most — whether you 
preferred, as he did, the single cherry-blossom, or 
the double. This Danjuro was unable to find out ; 
if he had known he would have chosen a kakemono 
of flowers for you. But I am glad you like the 

J 3 



Japan 

picture." I was amazed at the kindness of this man 
Danjuro. There was no accident about this picture 
that I admired so vastly : it had been chosen for a 
definite reason — to give me pleasure. And I afterwards 
learnt that there is no end to the amount of trouble a 
Japanese gentleman will take in the choosing of the 
picture that is to hang in the room where you are 
being entertained. 

When you enter a house in Japan, the first and one 
idea is to give you pleasure, and the people of the 
house will take elaborate pains, almost the care that 
a detective will take in detecting a crime, to find out, 
as delicately as possible, your taste in regard to this 
picture. They will send their servant round to your 
hotel to find out what flower you have expressly asked 
to have placed on your table, and that will be the 
flower that you will find adorning either a kakemono 
or a vase when entering the house of your friend. 

This room where Fukuchi and I were waiting 
looked out upon the garden — a miniature garden, no 
bigger than an ordinary dining-room, yet perfectly 
balanced, one that held infinite joys : there were 
the miniature bridges, lakes, and gold-fish, the 
mountains, the valleys, and the ancient turtles — all 
correct as to colour and marked by that exquisite 
taste which only a Japanese landscape-gardener can 
display. It was a bright sunlit day, and looking 
from this room with its perfect masterpiece to the 
little jewel of a garden, you felt that you were living 
in another world. And it was all so pure and so 

14 



SUN AND LANTERNS 



Art and the Drama 

" right " that I began to feel hopelessly " wrong." 
It seemed that I was the only blot in these perfect 
surroundings. And at last I became so shy that I 
really didn't know what to do with myself, and I 
felt that the only thing left for me was to take off my 
clothes and dig a hole in the ground, and then be 
ashamed that I had left my clothes behind me. How- 
ever, I controlled my emotions and waited on with 
Fukuchi until the sliding doors dividing us from 
the adjoining room were quietly opened and Dan- 
juro appeared. So unlike an actor! — no moving 
of the eyebrows, no stroking of the hair, but just a 
simple dignified gentleman, and an old gentleman, 
quite old. He was a slim, spare man, very refined, 
with the look of a picture of Buddha by Botticelli. 
The face was thin and narrow and keen ; bright eyes 
glanced at me from under heavy eyebrows ; his manner 
was magnetic ; and I felt at once that he was a great 
artist. The way his servants saluted him ! You could 
see that they loved him, and yet by the reverence they 
showed him he might have been a cardinal. I was at 
once offered exquisite delicacies in little lacquer cups, 
and we all sat down, on the floor of course, and 
Danjuro began to talk. One of the first things he 
said to me, through Fukuchi, who spoke English 
perfectly, was, " I am told that I have many qualities 
like your great actor Sir Henry Irving," and even as 
he spoke I could trace a distinct facial likeness between 
the two men. His voice was rich and powerful and 
his enunciation deliberate ; he used his hands quietly, 

15 



Japan 

and the expression varied very little except when 
he was anxious to emphasise, and then the change 
was extraordinary, while the expression and poses were 
so admirable that I could almost understand what the 
man was saying. 

I instinctively felt that the right thing to do was to 
first talk of the kakemono, and Danjuro, seeing my 
genuine enthusiasm, smiled and said, without a touch 
of false modesty, " Yes ; it is a great masterpiece ! ' 
and then he began to tell me about this picture, and I 
felt at once that this dignified little gentleman was a 
true artist. 

From the picture we drifted to the Drama, and 
Danjuro was very curious to know something of our 
work in London, and now and then, as he plied me 
with pertinent questions, I thought I detected a glimmer 
of fun behind his inscrutable demeanour. At last 
the questions rained around me so rapidly, and were 
so terribly to the point, that I felt thoroughly ashamed 
and did not know how to answer him. I knew that 
he was an artist, looking at his work from purely 
the artistic standpoint, and as an artist I knew that 
it would be utterly impossible for him to appreciate 
our Western methods : so I deftly turned the conversa- 
tion by returning the fire of questions. I had seen 
Danjuro in one or two scenes in which I was greatly 
struck with the remarkable changes of his facial 
expression. There was one scene in which Danjuro 
faced the audience, and in a minute, by the complete 
alteration of his face, changed himself into an entirely 

16 



SUMMER AFTERNOON 



Art and the Drama 

different man. This feat was really so remarkable 
that I was anxious to know how it was done, and 
suggested that it might have been accomplished by 
a clever make-up. " No, no ! ' he exclaimed. " It is 
a rule of mine to use 'make-up' very rarely. For 
change of expression we actors have to depend much 
on the muscles of our faces " ; and Danjuro, to 
illustrate this, quickly changed his face until it was 
totally different, even to the face markings, and I 
should have defied Sherlock Holmes himself to have 
known him to be the same man. Then I saw him 
act the part of a drunken man. I have seen drunken 
men on the stage over and over again, and there has 
always been a touch of vulgarity about them ; but this 
drunken man of Danjuro's was an exquisite triumph of 
art. I was curious to know how he had perfected this 
role, and suggested that it had perhaps been brought 
about through a careful study of the habits and actions 
of a drunkard, using him as a model, as it were. But 
this Danjuro firmly denied. "No, no, never! ' he ex- 
claimed. "I might just as well take a drunken man and 
stick him on the stage, just as he is, as to imitate any 
one man. That is not art : it is not a creation. I have 
seen drunken men all my life, and the drunken man 
I represented was the aggregate of all the drunkenness 
I have ever seen. Suppose by chance I had come 
across a drunken man while I was developing the 
character, I should perhaps have been tempted to 
follow that particular man too closely, and the result 
would have been necessarily inartistic." And Danjuro 

2 17 



Japan 

made it quite clear to me that when creating the 
character of either a drunken man or a madman, 
he invariably keeps as far away from Nature as possible. 
He would not proceed as some of our actors do, to 
hunt about in the slums until he had found a man 
sufficiently drunk for his purpose, and then copy him 
exactly ; or, yet again, he would not have attempted 
to imitate a death-bed scene by watching one particular 
person die. Such a thing would appear to him as a 
great degradation. 

Almost imperceptibly the conversation swerved round 
again to English acting, and Danjuro gave me a rather 
humorous, though humiliating, description of a play he 
had seen in Yokohama. The language was gibberish 
to him, and all he could do was to study the poses of 
the players, which struck him as being extremely awk- 
ward. "They suggested to me badly modelled statues," 
he explained ; " they never seemed to move gracefully, 
and their actions were always violent and exaggerated." 
This, from a Japanese, was frank criticism, for he made 
it quite clear to me that he had little or no sympathy 
with our methods. He felt that he was talking to 
an artist and that he could afford to be natural ; but 
after this very candid opinion there was a slight pause, 
which I hastened to break by putting a question on 
the subject of his own drama. 

The drama of Japan, he told me, was greatly im- 
proving ; the actors nowadays have chances which in 
the early days they had not, and it is easier for them 
to create fine scenic effects. They have the chance of 

18 



APRICOT-BLOSSOM STREET 







Ht 



Art and the Drama 

studying great masterpieces at museums ; they may 
copy costumes there, and, above all, they have the 
superb opportunity of studying colour and form. 
Then, many of the great Japanese actors possess collec- 
tions of very fine pictures, while the actors of early 
times could only study from badly printed woodblocks 
which were nearly all inaccurate. Schools for actors 
have been occupying his attention, and he hopes that 
some day they will be established all over Japan. 
Actors, in his opinion, should be taught when they 
are quite young the science of deportment and of 
graceful movement, to be artists as well as actors, and 
above all to avoid exaggeration. 

Danjuro prefers as an audience the middle classes. 
" They are more sympathetic," he said ; " the diplomats 
and politicians who have come in touch with the 
West, and are dressed in European dress, seem some- 
how to lose sympathy with us, and are not helpful 
as an audience. Perhaps it is that they can never 
entirely divest themselves of the sense of their own 
importance." 

After considering Danjuro's views concerning the 
Japanese drama, I was interested to hear the views 
of the dramatic author, and Fukuchi and I spent 
many delightful afternoons together discussing this all- 
absorbing topic. " What do you claim to be the chief 
advantages of Japanese as compared with European 
theatres?" I asked him on one occasion. "Well," 
replied Fukuchi without a moment's hesitation, " before 
everything else I should place the Hanamichi (flower- 

19 



Japan 

paths). This is absolutely indispensable to the Japanese 
stage, and allows of endless possibilities. With it we 
have far greater scope for fine work, and dramatically it 
is of tremendous advantage. Then there is the revolv- 
ing stage, which is a great improvement on Western 
mechanism, for while one scene is being acted, another 
can be prepared." 

On this particular afternoon the dramatist and I 
were sitting in Mr. Fukuchi's own room overlooking 
the river with a distant view of the sea. Books, all 
Japanese, were heaped up in an alcove, while the only 
furniture the room possessed was a very fine kakemono 
and a little narrow table. While we were talking, one 
of Fukuchi's little children, a boy of eight, entered, 
carrying with him his collection of butterflies, which, 
he thought, might chance to interest me. He 
showed me a catalogue which he was preparing for 
them. It was so admirably compiled that it would 
have been good enough for a special work on the 
subject. 

Fukuchi's ideal actor is Danjuro, and during the 
conversation he was constantly referring to him. " Of 
all the actors I like Danjuro the best," he said, " because 
he is an artist and understands colour, besides having 
a keen appreciation for harmony in the general arrange- 
ments." He told me that Danjuro is the one actor in 
Japan who can take the part of a woman to perfection. 
Many actors on the stage can keep the figure of a 
woman for five minutes at a time, but rarely longer, 
so painful are the poses, owing to the throwing back 

20 



TEA-HOUSE BY THE RIVER 



■ 



I 






(I. Jl 




«%' j 






,^8k 






h 











■ 

J 



\ 



Art and the Drama 

of the shoulders and the turning in of the knees. But 
Danjuro can go on and on indefinitely in this role, and 
so remarkable is he that even a Japanese woman is 
unable to detect one false move. On one occasion, 
when taking this part at a theatre in Yokohama before 
an audience composed chiefly of women, he happened 
to make a slip and by some slight error proved himself 
the man. In an instant the whole audience felt it, 
and the effect produced on them was simply astound- 
ing ! For once they nearly laughed, an unheard-of 
thing with a Japanese audience : to see a woman turn 
so suddenly into a man was too much for their 
equanimity. 

Danjuro's finest and most artistic bit of acting is 
in Japan's greatest tragedy, The Chushingura, in the 
part of Goto, who, returning to his lord intoxicated, 
falls asleep by the wayside. His master, finding him, 
fires off a gun close to his ear. " Most actors," said 
Mr. Fukuchi, " would fall asleep with their backs to 
the audience, and when waking depend upon ' make-up ' 
for an altered expression. Danjuro sleeps with his face 
to the audience, and on the gun firing wakes up with 
an entirely altered expression through the contraction 
of the facial muscles." 

I was curious to know from Fukuchi what were 
the duties of the stage - manager in Japan. For some 
time he looked thoughtful, as though unable to grasp 
my meaning. "We have no managers in Japan," he 
said at length : " the play has to do with the dramatic 
author : it is for him to arrange everything. He must 

21 



Japan 

first think out every detail, and then consult with the 
chief actor and proprietor. If these disagree, the play 
is not produced." Mr. Fukuchi maintained that the 
dramatic author must be absolute master of the situa- 
tion, interfered with by none. It would be impossible 
for an actor or manager to have any conception of the 
picture as a whole ; therefore the dramatist must be 
supreme. If an actor or an actress were permitted a 
choice as to the colour or form of costumes, the work 
would of necessity be ruined. There is no such thing 
as the leading lady insisting upon wearing a puce dress, 
as she does in England or anywhere on the Continent. 
The manager does not know what " puce " means, nor, 
probably, does the lady ; but he sees no reason why she 
should not wear puce if it pleases her. Accordingly 
puce is worn, irrespective of scene harmony, and the 
lady is content. In Japan such an occurrence would 
be out of the question ; but our Western stage is 
already such a jumble that any little eccentricity on the 
part of the leading lady in favour of puce or anything 
else she fancies would be scarcely noticeable. 

"They tell me," put in Mr. Fukuchi, "that there 
are dramatic authors in England who are not artists — 
that they do not all understand colour harmonies and 
line. Can this be true ? " I had to tell him that such 
men were not uncommon with us. Fukuchi looked 
serious, and was silent for a long while, meditating 
as to how it would be possible for a dramatic author 
to produce a play without a scientific knowledge of 
art and drawing. " I fail to understand this," he said 

22 



OUTSIDE KIOTO 



■ 



■ ' ON* 



<*m ■■■■> 




Art and the Drama 

after some minutes' thought ; " I cannot understand. 
When I have finished writing my play, and when I have 
talked with the chief actor, I make my drawings myself. 
I must make the pictures, and I must give careful 
directions to the costumiers and the carpenters. I 
cannot understand how your dramatic author does this." 
And the little man was genuinely perturbed. 

The pictorial side of a Japanese dramatist's work 
interested me keenly, and I begged Fukuchi to tell me 
how he, as an author, prepared his drawings for the 
costumier, stage-painter, and carpenter. "Well, if you 
like I will show you," he said ; "I am now writing a 
historical play, the scenes of which will be like this," 
and to my great amazement Fukuchi at once began 
to draw in a rapid masterly manner the scene of a 
gentleman's house and garden. No detail, however 
trivial, was overlooked, and the infinite pains and care 
with which he executed these delightful little drawings 
both astonished and charmed me. I could see at once 
the utter impossibility of any one attempting to interfere 
with this man, who had a complete grasp of his subject 
not only from the literary standpoint, but also from the 
pictorial. 

To give any idea of the exquisite delicacy and 
precision with which these sketches of Fukuchi's were 
carried out, I must describe one or two of the scenes. 
First of all there was the garden ; this was to have 
on its right a bamboo fence, a pine-tree, and a grass 
plot. On the left was placed a willow -tree, and 
stepping-stones leading from the house to the gate. 

23 



Japan 

Then the gentleman's house was to be considered. Mr. 
Fukuchi decided that this was to be thatched and have 
a projecting floor, while in front he placed a bamboo 
fence, a well, and a cluster of chrysanthemums. " Now 
at the back of the house I must have a range of 
mountains with autumnal tints," said Fukuchi ; and no 
sooner said than done — in a few minutes there stood 
the range of mountains with their autumnal tints, 
ranging from orange to brown, noted in the margin, 
with directions as to the quality of cotton cloth to be 
used for their construction. Every detail in this garden 
scene was exact, and no one could have altered so much 
as a leaf without ruining the picture. Next Fukuchi 
proceeded to make for the costumier a drawing of a 
girl. By the dressing of her hair the girl was shown 
to be not over nineteen years of age, the ornaments 
being one of red and the other silver. She was to hold 
a fan, and Fukuchi even decided on the colour of the 
fan and the way the girl should hold it. It was to 
have a gold ground with a silvery moon, light and black 
grass growing in white water. The lady's kimono was 
of dark purple at the bottom and light purple at the 
top ; this was arranged purely for decorative reasons in 
order to harmonise with the obi, which was black. As 
a rule the colours in a dress graduate from the top 
downwards ; but the obi looked best against the light 
purple, and custom was sacrificed to art. The figures 
on the kimono were to be all white with silver strings, 
and a delicate white wave pattern. 

Mr. Fukuchi next proceeded to consider the hand- 

24 



A BLOND DAY 



Art and the Drama 

ling of historical colour. The scene was that of a 
lord and his wife, the lord just setting out for the 
wars and the wife seeking to detain him, holding on 
to his armour. The armour is red and the clothes 
are indigo. These colours being fixed historically, it 
was for the artist to arrange backgrounds that should 
harmonise with these. In the lady alone were his 
artistic tastes allowed to expand. He would have 
her dressed in white, with large chrysanthemums in 
red, yellow, and purple tones. 

These exquisitely clothed figures were to be placed 
before a screen, having sea-rocks and an eagle painted 
on it with black ink. Yet again another screen was 
to be of light brown, with glittering birds delicately 
traced upon it, in order that they should not interfere 
with the breadth of the whole. 

" Now, Mr. Fukuchi," I said, " I can quite see 
that you are an artist, and that your handling of 
a play from the decorative standpoint is quite 
perfect. But now tell me something of your literary 
methods." 

Then Fukuchi began by telling me that in writing 
a novel he wrote it as a poem, and when writing a 
play he thought of it as a picture. But there are 
periods in writing a novel when it in a way gets the 
better of him, and develops unconsciously into a drama. 
Then he told me of one or two stories he had recently 
published, one of which began as a novel and ended 
as a play. He said he could not understand the habits 
of some authors of taking down scraps of conversation, 

25 



Japan 

and using them for their finished works. He himself 
spends his whole life listening to conversations and 
studying the poses of people ; but to take notes of 
what they were saying would be hopeless ; the notes 
could never be used for fine artistic work. In planning 
a play he sees it as a whole, as a series of pictures, 
before beginning to pen a line. 

I was talking to Fukuchi about realism on the stage, 
and he told me of the horror they have in Japan of 
bringing live animals into a play ; such a thing has 
been attempted on one or two occasions, but always 
with disastrous results. One enterprising actor, he told 
me, spent much time in training a horse to take part 
in a very fine production at one of the principal theatres. 
The horse was trained to perfection, and on the first 
night that it appeared, being a novelty, it was loudly 
applauded ; but the lights and the confusion so terrified 
the poor animal that it sat down on the stage and 
refused to move. Yet again another actor, determined 
to outdo this former performance in originality, trained 
a live monkey to take the place of the decorative paste- 
board monkey which had always been used on the 
stage. This animal, unlike the horse, was trained to 
know the stage as well as his master's room, and 
grew quite accustomed to the lights and the people 
surrounding him. So thoroughly at home was this 
monkey that on its first appearance it swept the 
stage of all the actors, caused confusion and distress 
among the audience — in short, it behaved abominably, 
and did everything but that which it had been so 

26 



A BLIND BEGGAR 



Art and the Drama 

carefully trained to do. After this the pasteboard 
monkey reigned supreme. 

Mr. Fukuchi, although he is a brilliant English 
scholar and has an intense admiration for Shakspeare's 
works, thoroughly realises how impossible it would be 
to attempt to put Hamlet on the Japanese stage : it 
would suit neither the actors nor the public. 



27 



THE GIANT LANTERN 



THE LIVING ART 



SUN AND LANTERNS 




( 



CHAPTER II 

THE LIVING ART 

A Japanese authority has boasted that the only living 
art of to-day is the art of Japan ; and the remark is not 
so much exaggerated as it may appear at first sight to 
the European. Art in Japan is living as art in Greece 
was living. It forms part and parcel of the very life of 
the people ; every Jap is an artist at heart in the sense 
that he loves and can understand the beautiful. If one 
of us could be as fortunate as the man in the story, 
Avho came in his voyages upon an island where an 
Hellenic race preserved all the traditions and all the 
genius of their Attic ancestors, he would understand 
what living art really signifies. What would be true 
of that imaginary Greek island is absolutely true 
of Japan to-day. Art is in Europe cultivated in 
the houses of the few, and those few scarcely know 
either the beauties or the value of the plant they are 
cultivating. That is the privilege of a class rather 
than the rightful inheritance of the many. The world 
is too much divided into the artist on the one hand 
and the Philistine on the other. But it is not so in 

3 1 



Japan 

Japan, as it was not so in ancient Greece. In Japan 
the feeling for art is an essential condition of life. 
This is why I expect so much from the interest in 
Japan which is now awakening in England. 

The report of the Japanese Commission sent to Europe 
to investigate the conditions of Western art, some years 
ago, startled Western minds considerably. The Com- 
missioners gave it as their opinion that Japanese art 
was the only real living art. This surprised, perplexed, 
and irritated many people, as home truths generally do. 
Without adopting in integrity every word of the Com- 
mission's report, I must confess that I found in it a 
great deal of truth. 

The great characteristic of Japanese art is its intense 
and extraordinary vitality, in the sense that it is no 
mere exotic cultivation of the skilful, no mere graceful 
luxury of the rich, but a part of the daily lives of the 
people themselves. It is all very well to draw gloomy 
deductions about the decay of Japanese art from the 
manufacture and the importation of curios destined 
for the European market. That there is such an 
importation there can be no doubt, any more than 
that this condition of things will continue while people 
fancy that they are giving proof of their artistic 
taste by sticking up all over their walls anything and 
everything, good, bad, and indifferent, which professes 
to come from Japan or to be made on Japanese models. 

What an educated Jap would think of some of 
our so-called " Japanese rooms " I shudder to imagine. 
But let me ask — and this is much more to the purpose 

32 



THE EMPTY TEA-HOUSE 



The Living Art 

— what would an uneducated Jap think ? And let 
me give my own answer. He would be as much 
surprised by any bad taste or bad art as his educated 
superior would be. This is the burden of my argument 
— that art in Japan is universal and instructive, and 
therefore living ; not an artificial production of a special 
class, and therefore not living. Art was certainly a 
living thing in the best days of Athens ; art has been, 
in some measure, a living thing elsewhere and in later 
days. For we must remember that art does not merely 
consist in the production of a certain number of works 
of art, or even of masterpieces. A country may 
produce a great many works of art, and yet as a 
country be entirely lacking in living artistic feeling. 
France is a land of works of art ; but the works do 
not appeal to the voyou — still less do they appeal to 
the ouvrier, to the bourgeois, to the butcher, the baker, 
the candlestick-maker. Now, what I claim for Japan 
is that in its most real and most important sense it is 
a living artistic country. The artistic sense is shared 
by the peasant and the prince, as well as by the 
carpenter, the fan-maker, the lacquer-worker, and the 
stateliest daimio whose line dates back to the creation 
of things. 

But do not run away with my contention. I do 
not mean to say that every Jap is a born artist. There 
are Philistines in Japan, as elsewhere. What I do 
maintain is that the artistic instinct is more widely 
diffused, is more common to all classes of the com- 
munity in Japan, than in any of our European countries. 
3 33 



Japan 

This is no small thing to say of a country. It is full 
of deep significance to all students of art. Although 
we are doing our best, with our love for gimcrackeries, 
to cheapen and degrade the artistic capacity of Japan, 
our evil influence has been but partially felt, and so 
but partially successful. Having done all the harm 
we can do unwittingly, let us pause, if possible, and 
reflect before we wittingly do further mischief. 

The problem to the lovers of art is simply this : 
shall we learn all we can learn — and that is a great 
deal — from the living art instincts of Japan, or shall 
we continue to blunt and deaden the productive power 
of Japan by encouraging the barbarous demand for 
worthless baubles to make ludicrous the home of the 
so-called aesthete ? If those who are most proud of 
the Japanese toys and trinkets they have amassed, 
which, with semi-savage stupidity, they have nailed 
upon their walls and stuck upon their shelves and 
tables, could but see what an artistic house in Japan 
is like, they would learn some startling truths as to 
the real facts and principles of Japanese decoration and 
the Japanese ideal of art. If they could only know 
the contempt with which the truly artistic Jap looks 
upon the demand for " curios," and upon the kind of 
"curios" which are turned out wholesale to meet that 
demand, they would not feel so proud of themselves, 
and of the rooms which they display to delighted 
friends as " quite Japanese, you know." The artistic 
Jap shows nothing in a room — absolutely nothing, 
except a lovely flower and a screen, and perhaps a 

34 



OVER THE BRIDGE 



. 



The Living Art 

beautiful verse or some clever sentence indited in free- 
hand writing, placed beautifully in the room in just 
relation to its surroundings. 

There is a curious fact to be noticed in connection 
with such inscriptions. In conversation a friend might 
happen to give forth some brilliant and very epigram- 
matic utterance. The hearers are so delighted that 
they get him to write down this mot in large 
characters, and it is mounted and placed in the room. 
Such a caligraphic maxim, written by the hand of 
the speaker, they consider a fitting portion of the 
permanent decoration of a room. 

You would never know from the rooms of a Jap 
that he was a great picture -collector. The wealthy 
collector keeps all his treasures stowed away in what is 
called a "go-down" — his storehouse — and his pictures 
are brought up one at a time if any visitor is present or 
expected. Generally a single picture will be brought 
in and hung up. You enjoy that beautiful picture by 
itself. It is very much like bringing a bottle of wine 
from the cellar — no one would want the whole bin at a 
time. 

The Japs have an artistic temperament altogether, 
and the simplest craftsman is an artist in his own way. 
I was especially struck with this once when I was in want 
of some frames, and I employed a Jap to make them 
for me. He could talk English perfectly well, and it 
was remarkable to watch the development of the frames 
and the enthusiastic temperament discovered by the 
carpenter as he proceeded. I myself designed a certain 

35 



Japan 

frame, and I would by slight drawings encourage him 
and his fellows to go on with the work. They all 
took the greatest possible interest in the refinement 
of the object — they would place it down and then go 
off and look at it, and talk to those friends who were 
looking on about the beauties they saw in it and in 
its proportions ; and the intelligence and pleasure they 
showed were not only extraordinary but also delightful. 
This frame-making was quite novel to them, as they 
do not frame any of their objects ; but they were 
interested in the design of the frame and the placing 
of the picture within it. Although the matter was not 
in itself of any remarkable importance, I hold that it 
fairly proves the artistic temperament of a chance 
selection of people. Think of a common carpenter 
making a simple thing and taking a just pride in 
doing it ! The result was that I got one of the most 
beautiful frames you can conceive, and that I was 
encouraged in my own work by the sympathy of these 
workmen. 

Of course, in Japan there are painters who paint 
for the market — people who have been destroyed by 
the British merchant and the American trader. They 
spend their time in painting pictures of flowers and 
birds in vivid colourings that appeal to our tastes, solely 
for exportation to England and America. Apropos of 
this I must mention a conversation I had with a painter 
about screens, which struck me as being very curious. 
I wanted to buy a gold screen, and he took me to a 
shop where I saw a vast number of screens, nearly all 

36 



THE SCARLET UMBRELLA 



The Living Art 

with black grounds and golden birds and fish on them. 
I told him I did not like them ; and he answered, 
" Neither do we. Here in Japan we would not have 
them in our houses ; but they are what the English 
and American markets demand. We ourselves never 
buy them ; we nearly always choose screens with light 
grounds, beautifully painted " — in fact, splendid pieces 
of decoration. A screen painted by a first-class artist 
is valued very highly, while the fact of one from the 
hand of an old Japanese master being for disposal is 
known all over the country at once, and everybody is 
prepared to bid for it as one would bid for a Sir Joshua 
here. A really good screen fetches an enormous price, 
for it takes the place there of pictures and frescoes with 
us, and every man of taste requires one or two fine 
specimens in his house beautiful. One I saw at the 
house of the Minister for Foreign Affairs was painted 
with a blue wave — an arrangement, in fact, in blue and 
gold. I never saw such a gorgeous screen, nor, I 
verily believe, anything more beautiful as an arrange- 
ment of colour — the huge wave, one sweep of blue, 
and the piece of gold at the top. It was, I was told, 
by an old master of Japan, and worth an enormous 
sum. The Japanese perfectly appreciate the value of 
things like that, and they very rarely let them leave 
the country, so that it has become very difficult to 
get hold of anything really fine. 

An experience which gave me a close insight into 
Japanese feeling was a meeting of some of the painters 
of Japan. It was arranged by a Japanese gentleman 

37 



Japan 

who, though not an artist himself, is deeply interested 
in art, and keenly alive to everything touching it. 
Knowing me personally, he was anxious that I should 
come in contact with these men whose practice he so 
much revered, and so he invited several of these 
artists of different kinds — designers of metal work 
and designers for manufactures — to his house to meet 
me. I talked to them with his interpreting help, just 
a little about art and its principles and so forth, in the 
hope that the others would be brought to speak freely, and 
I expressed my readiness to give them what information 
I could of European art and its practice. They asked 
me remarkable questions. Most of them, it appeared, 
were discouraged because " the European required such 
ugly things." If they made what the Europeans really 
enjoyed, their productions were looked upon as unsale- 
able. It appeared to me that it must be extremely 
difficult for the Japs to hold fast to their artistic instincts, 
and in the end I expressed my conviction that it would 
pay them better to adhere to their principles rather 
than to pander to the foolish demands of the dull 
American or British merchant who had neither idea 
nor concern as to the beauty of the work he buys. 

Unfortunately, to a great extent these traders are 
lowering the standard of painting in Japan. Not a 
few of these sixty men who came to meet me would do 
work they did not care about, not being men of such 
individuality and independence of character as Kiyosai. 
With them, as with us, the prize of money-reward is a 
bait too tempting to be resisted. Two days afterwards 

38 



LEADING TO THE TEMPLE 



The Living Art 

some of these friends were good enough to write a 
long discourse in one of the Japanese papers on my 
address, saying how much pleased they were to find 
an artist from England with my ideas of Japanese 
art — one who condemned the notion so common 
among them that it was necessary to pander to the 
tastes of a foreign market. They were especially glad 
that I had condemned that, and many of the painters, 
more or less on the strength of my conversation, 
decided to do thenceforth what they felt to be true 
to their principles — to go to nature and themselves, 
to choose their lovely harmony of colour, instead of 
designing stereotyped screens with gold birds on black 
backgrounds. Many were determined to give up that 
kind of art altogether, and one in particular (whose 
studio I called at the day after) pointed out that he 
had already quite altered his style. He was an artist 
by nature, and he told me he felt that having to do 
this horrible work was going against him, and he had 
made up his mind that in future he would insist upon 
doing what he felt to be beautiful, and would be ruled 
by the merchant no more. I visited the studios of a 
great many of the artists to whom I had delivered my 
lecture, and saw their sketch-books and their method 
of work. In nearly every case their method coincided 
with the principles laid down by Kiyosai — each having, 
of course, his own method, but each working in the 
same broad way of " impression picture." 

Japan might be said to be as artistic as England is 
inartistic. In Japan art is not a cause, but a result — 

39 



Japan 

the result of the naturalness of the people — and is 
closely allied with all aspects of their daily life. In the 
houses, the streets, the gardens, the places of public 
resort — everywhere is to be found the all -pervading 
element of art and beauty. A rainy day in Japan is 
not, as it is in London, a day of gloom and horror, 
but a day of absolute fascination. What a joy is the 
spectacle of all those lovely yellow paper umbrellas 
unfurling themselves beneath a shower like flowers 
before the sun, so different from the dark shiny respect- 
ability of our ghastly gamps at home ! John Bunyan 
has written and talked of the house beautiful ; but the 
Japanese have given to the nation not only the house 
beautiful, but also (what is even more important to the 
community at large) the street beautiful, and that is 
where Japan differs so widely from Europe. As I 
walk through the London streets at night, how prosaic 
is the flicker of each gas-jet, within its sombre panes 
of glass, in some " long unlovely street," and how 
different from the softened rays that shine from out 
the dainty ricksha lanterns illuminating the streets in 
Japan ! There a poem meets your eye with each step 
you take ; and how pretty is every street corner, with 
its little shop, its mellow light and dainty arrangements, 
with the smiling face of some little child peeping out 
from the dim shadow beyond ! It is a terrible thing to 
live in a country where art is the luxury of the few, 
and where the people know as little of what constitutes 
the beauty of life as a Hindoo knows of skating. 
What would a Japanese gentleman say, I wonder, if he 

40 



BY THE LIGHT OF THE LANTERNS 



The Living Art 

passed into a room in the depths of winter and saw a 
quantity of those pretty fans, which in his country help 
to modify the heat of the golden summer days, viciously 
nailed, without rhyme or reason, upon a bright red 
wall, or those fairy-like umbrellas, upon which he has 
seen the rain-drops glisten so brightly, stuck within the 
gloomy recess of some lead -black hideous grate, or 
(with still less sense of the fitness of things or regard 
for the uses for which it was made) glued to a white- 
washed ceiling ? 

We sometimes talk of the deteriorating influence 
of European ideas upon Japanese art ; but we have 
tailed to perceive the ghastly inappropriateness of 
applying the Japs' delicate flights of fancy to our 
homes of discomfort. That usefulness is the basis of 
all righteousness is the moral code by which a man's 
position is gauged in Japan, and by which things are 
made. It does not matter how beautiful an article may 
be, or how trivial — whether it is a penholder, a snuff- 
box, or a pipe — if it is not useful it is considered 
inartistic, and will not be accepted by the Japanese 
public. The form of a vase or a cup, or the shape 
of a handle, must all be designed with a view to its 
usefulness ; and every little work of art that is made, 
every cabinet and curio (apart from being decorative), 
is designed to convey some maxim-like idea, a lesson 
that will be useful and helpful in one way or another to 
the beholder. 

On entering a Japanese tea-house you will see a 
kakemono hanging on the wall that strikes you at the 

4i 



Japan 

first glance as being a perfect picture, with the bold but 
simple Chinese characters on the white silk and the tiny 
slip of vermilion which is the signature of the artist. 
It is placed well in the room, and is altogether a thing 
of beauty ; but when, on closer inspection, you read 
the decorative letters, you will find that they give you 
some dainty piece of advice to help you through the 
day, or some pretty idea on which your eye and mind 
can rest. 

Then, again, the games that the children play in the 
streets with sand or pebbles — they are teaching them 
arithmetic, construction, patience, and innumerable 
valuable lessons. 

Usefulness is the basis of the ancient caste system 
of Japan, which system exists at the present day, and 
upon which the relative usefulness of a man depends. 
Take the Samurai. They occupy the premier position 
as Japanese aristocracy, because, although they wear 
silk, they give up their lives for their country — and no 
man can be more useful than that. The agriculturalist 
ranks next in dignity ; for none can do without food, 
and therefore his usefulness is indisputable. Then 
come the workmen, and last of all the merchants, who 
are considered as " no class " in Japan and are greatly 
looked down upon — producing nothing, they merely 
turn over articles made by other hands for a profit. 

The most beautiful article we possess (one that 
is entirely our own) is the hansom cab. It is perhaps 
one of the greatest triumphs that the West has pro- 
duced in the shape of a conveyance, and simply because 

42 



" NEWS 



The Living Art 

it has been designed with a view to its usefulness. 
Would that we were always ruled by this splendid 
quality ! Unfortunately, we are not. We are ruled 
by our own tastes, which, I feel bound to admit, are 
not artistic. Think of the sombre, happy-go-lucky 
arrangements of our London theatres. How is it 
that in the best-managed of them an actress will so 
far forget herself as to lie dying in the middle of a 
snowy street in the dead of night, pale-faced and 
wretched-looking, with ten thousand pounds' worth of 
jewellery on her fingers ? Such a scene would drive 
the artistic and consistent Japanese manager into the 
nearest lunatic asylum. At the same time he would 
be unutterably shocked at seeing a red moon (red, let 
us trust, with the blush of shame at its creator's folly) 
rising hurriedly behind some stage bank of roses, 
swiftly and unnaturally hurrying across a purple sky, 
and shamefacedly setting in the East, in the West, in 
the North, in the South, within the brief hour of 
an English stage, as if glad to escape the rapturous 
applause of an inartistic public. 

But perhaps nowhere is the difference between 
European and Japanese art so sharply accentuated as 
it is in the teaching of it in the great schools of the 
West and of the East. Let us take the art schools 
of Paris, which is considered by a vast portion of the 
artistic world to be the very paradise of art. You 
enter the crowded studio of some well-known master, 
and you see before you a large white statue, the first and 
predominant impression of which is its exceeding white- 

43 



Japan 

ness ; and to your mingled amusement and amazement 
you discover that the unfortunate pupils are engaged 
in a futile endeavour to render an impression of exceed- 
ing whiteness by the aid of thick black chalk or char- 
coal. As to how this is to be done with any degree 
of verisimilitude you are no less at fault than they 
are, poor dears, themselves ; and therefore you will not 
be surprised that, dazed and wearied as they must 
be from the steady contemplation of this never-ending 
pose, their work at the close of a day resembles the 
figure from which they have been drawing as closely 
as the work of Michael Angelo, or any of the great 
Japanese masters. 

From the antique you pass to the life room. Here 
another shock awaits you. In the middle of the room 
stands a young girl, strapped up in the attitude of 
Atalanta of classic fable running her immortal race. 
These pupils are taught first of all to sketch the 
figure in the pose of running as a skeleton. When 
the hideous skeleton has been carefully and laboriously 
committed to paper, it is with equal care imbued with 
nerves and muscles and flesh. When all this is done, 
a light Grecian drapery is flung on her, regardless of 
the folds and movement that would eventually have 
resulted from the fluttering of the breeze, and, mind 
you, she is strapped up all the time. Then, when 
ail is completed, the poor dear lady is expected to 
run her immortal race. Of course, by this time there 
is no action in the figure at all. Atalanta appears 
glued to the spot, and my only wonder is that she 

44 



A SUNNY TEMPLE 




rMf£><«.«">«*"-*«»'^^ * 



The Living Art 

does not indignantly chase her unfortunate creators 
from the studio. On looking at these pictures the 
spectator would say that he never saw anything so 
absolutely unsuggestive of the breathless vigour and 
energy of a healthy young girl engaged in a rapid 
race as is indicated by the pitiful weariness of that 
poor strapped-up creature in front of them. Would 
it not be far better that these students should go 
out into the street, after the method of the Japs, 
and watch some girl as she runs and jumps in the 
bright sunshine, with a soft wind blowing her hair 
about her head and her gown about her limbs, and 
then come back, and, with a memory of the beautiful 
inspiriting scene still fresh in their minds, commit 
their impressions "hot and hot" upon the canvas 
before them ? 

Still, England has not always been so hopelessly 
inartistic. None would think of denying the perfect 
taste of the architects who designed such buildings 
as the Winchester and Durham Cathedrals, and Arundel 
Castle ; but those are buildings wrought in dead days 
by men a long time dead, and England's days of 
artistic appreciation are, I fear, as dead as they are. 
Commerce and so-called civilisation have ruined us, 
I fear, for ever. Japan is as artistic to-day as we 
were five hundred years ago, and I rejoice to think 
that at present there appears to be little fear of so 
ghastly a fate as has overtaken us. As a nation the 
Japanese remain faithful to art in all its details, and 
as individuals they are still a nation of artists. Where 

45 



Japan 

else but in Japan would an aged gentleman dream 
of rising ere the day has well begun, merely that he 
might bring into harmony with all its surroundings, 
and present in the best light possible, a little flower 
placed in a pot — bending it this way and that way, 
that its attitude might conform with the cabinet in 
one corner of the room, or a screen in the other ? 
Who but a Japanese chamber-boy would be so im- 
pressed with the artistic value of contrast merely 
that he would feel constrained thereby to place the 
can of hot water in a different attitude every time 
he brought it into the room, and thoughtfully step 
aside to regard its consonance with its immediate 
surroundings ? Art begins, as charity begins, at home ; 
and where the home of the individual is absolutely 
artistic, it cannot fail that the whole nation should be 
a nation of artists. I give way to none in my loyalty 
to my country and my love for that country — I must 
say that I do not think that there is a country better 
in the whole world ; — but perfection on this earth is 
not only impossible, but to my idea also absolutely 
undesirable — a perfect nation would be to the full as 
dreadful as a perfect man. We are saved from perfec- 
tion by an almost entire lack of the artistic faculty, 
and, however great we are in other respects, I am 
sad to say we are thoroughly inartistic. To whom 
but the Englishman would the golden dragons that 
play so recklessly about on black screens with their 
scarlet drooping tongues, that are sold in the Japanese 
curio shops, possibly appeal ? Who but English- 

46 



A RUSH TO THE STALL 



The Living Art 

speaking people would crave for those cherry-blossoms 
embroidered on white silk grounds, which they so 
gleefully carry away with them ? Who but my in- 
artistic countrymen would insist on their cabinets being 
smothered with endless and miscellaneous carvings ? 
The Japanese are too artistic to admit these things 
into their own homes ; but why are their dealers so 
inartistic as (blinded by the desire of filthy pelf) to 
put forth these embroideries for the English and 
American market ? Such things now and then make 
me tremble for the future of art in Japan. It may 
be (though I trust not) the thin end of the wedge ; 
it may be " the little rift within the lute that by and 
by will make the music mute, and, ever widening, 
slowly silence all." What a tragedy it would be 
that the music of this most perfect art should ever 
be silenced in that lovely land, the resting-place and 
home of the highest and only living art ! 



47 



ON THE GREAT CANAL, OSAKA 



PAINTERS AND THEIR METHODS 



AFTER THE FESTIVAL 







< ; 



I 




| 



CHAPTER III 

PAINTERS AND THEIR METHODS 

The methods of painters all over the world are very- 
much alike. In fact, the methods of great masters (no 
matter of what nationality, and whether of this period 
or of centuries past) are often precisely similar, while 
there can be no doubt but that some of the finest master- 
pieces ever painted very closely resemble one another. 
I was once taken to see two photographs, one a portion 
of a figure by Michael Angelo, and the other a portion 
of a Japanese buddha by one of Japan's greatest masters ; 
and to my surprise I found that it was almost impossible 
to detect which was which. This particular statue of 
Michael Angelo's I had studied and knew well ; yet 
here was a portion of a Japanese god that looked exactly 
the same — the same broad handling, the same every- 
thing. In both there was the same curious exaggeration 
of the bones and muscles, wrong from the anatomical 
standpoint, yet conveying an impression of terrific 
strength that is so typical of the work of Michael Angelo 
— indeed, one masterly hand might have executed both 
pictures. Yet the little Japanese artist, the creator of 

5i 



Japan 

this buddha, was but a modern, and in all probability- 
had never so much as seen Michael Angelo's pictures, 
much less had he been in the slightest degree influenced 
by him. 

Japanese painters have a great admiration for 
Michael Angelo's work, and for Italian painters in 
general. If you were to show a Japanese artist, any 
ordinary little minor artist, some photographs of master- 
pieces by men such as Velasquez, Rembrandt, and 
Botticelli, you would find that he would at once spring 
on to the early Italian work, peer into it, hold it up, 
devour it, muttering to himself the while — nothing could 
tear him away. Rembrandt does not appeal to him 
much ; Velasquez not much ; but Botticelli — yes. Still, 
I have often thought that could Hokusai and Velasquez, 
Kiosi and Whistler, have met and talked, they would 
have had much in common with one another ; for there 
is in the works of each, although in many senses so 
widely different, that simplicity, truthfulness, and restraint 
which render them all so very much alike. 

The broad principles of art are much the same all the 
world over ; but it is between the lesser artists of Japan 
and the myriads of comparatively unknown artists of 
Europe that there is so great a gulf fixed. Japanese 
minor artists are artists indeed. Our minor artists are, 
I fear, anything but artists. The veriest Japanese 
craftsman is an artist first and a tradesman afterwards. 
Ours is a tradesman first and last and altogether ; and 
even as a tradesman he is, I fear, a failure, for the 
honest tradesman has at least something worth the 

52 



GOLDFISH 



Painters and their Methods 

selling, whilst our men — the jerry builder, the plumber, 
the furniture maker, and the carpenter — give in return 
for solid money an article which it would break the 
heart of the merest artisan in Japan to put forward as 
the work of his hands. But perhaps nowhere is the 
difference between European and Japanese art so sharply 
accentuated as it is in the teaching of it in the great 
schools of the East and of the West. We Westerners 
are taught to draw direct from the object or model 
before us on the platform, whereas the Japanese are 
taught to study every detail of their model, and to 
store their brains with impressions of every curve and 
line, afterwards to go away and draw that object 
from memory. This is a splendid training for the 
memory and the eye, as it teaches one both to see and 
to remember — two great considerations in the art of 
drawing. You will often see a little child sitting in a 
garden in Japan gazing attentively for perhaps a whole 
hour at a bowl of gold-fish, watching the tiny bright 
creatures as they circle round and round in the bowl. 
Remarking on some particular pose, the child will retain 
it in its busy brain, and, running away, will put down 
this impression as nearly as it can remember. Perhaps 
on this first occasion he is only able to put in a few 
leading lines ; very soon he is at a loss — he has for- 
gotten the curve of the tail or the placing of the eye. 
He toddles back and studies the fish again and again, 
until perhaps after one week's practice that child is able 
to draw the fish in two or three different poses from 
memory without the slightest hesitation or uncertainty. 

53 



Japan 

It is this certainty of touch and their power to 
execute these bold, sweeping, decided lines that torm 
the chief* attraction or" Japanese works of art. Their 
wrists are supple ; the picture in their minds is sure ; 
they have learnt it line tor line ; it is merely the matter 
of* a tew minutes tor an artist to sketch in his picture. 
There are no choppy hesitating lines such as one detects 
in even the finest of our Western pictures, lines in which 
vou can plainly see how the artist has swerved first to 
the right and then to the lett, correcting and erasing, 
uncertain in his touch. The lines will probably be 
correct in the end ; but when the picture is finished his 
work has not that bright crisp look so characteristic of 
the Japanese pictures. Then, again, when a Japanese 
artist draws a bird, he begins with the point of interest — 
which, let us say, is the eve. The brilliant black eye of 
a crow fixed upon a piece ot meat attracts his attention ; 
he remembers it, and the first few strokes that he 
portrays upon his stretched silk is the eye of the bird. 
The neck, the Iclts, the body — everything radiates and 
springs from that bright eve just as it does in the animal 
itself. 

Then, again, let us sav a Japanese artist is painting 
a typical Japanese river -scene, such a one as inspired 
manv ot Mr. Whistler's graceful Thames etchings — a 
quaintly formed bridge under whose dim archway a 
glimpse of shipping and masses of detail can be seen in 
the distance. To a Japanese artist the chief charm and 
i merest of such a scene would lie in that little view 
beneath the bridge, and he would begin by drawing in, 

54 



THE LEMON BRIDGE 



Painters and their Methods 

line for line, every little mast and funnel just as he sees 
it, or rather as he remembers it. The picture slowly 
expands as it reaches the margin, ending in the bridge, 
which forms, as it were, a frame through which to view 
the dainty richness of detail of the busy scene beyond. 
If you were to arrest this picture at any moment during 
its career you would find that it formed a perfect whole, 
every line balancing the other ; whereas, according to 
our methods, if we were to draw the bridge first, timidly 
suggesting the distance and leaving the detail and all 
the fine lines to be put in afterwards, as so many artists 
do, the picture until it was completed would appear 
spotty and uneven. And even when finished there 
would be no balance, for we neither understand nor 
realise the importance of that quality without which 
no work of art can be perfect. 

The Japanese methods of drawing and painting are 
entirely opposed to our Western methods, and in order 
to give a slight insight into the works of the Japanese 
painters I must describe these methods as minutely and 
as clearly as is possible. To begin with, the size of an 
ordinary picture is two feet by four and a half long, 
and as a rule three times as much space is left at the 
top as at the bottom of the picture. The brushes consist 
of a series of round ones ; they are flat-ended and vary 
greatly in breadth, being named after the character of 
work they are fitted for. Straw brushes are sometimes 
used for coarse work. The silk that they paint upon 
is prepared in the following manner. First the edges 
of the wooden frame are pasted and the silk is rolled 

55 



Japan 

loosely over, great care being taken to keep the grain 
of the silk level. The surface of the silk is prepared 
with alum and size, the proportion of which is about an 
egg-spoonful of alum to a small tea-cupful of size. The 
size is boiled and strained and diluted with water, and 
the alum is added over the fire ; it is again strained, and 
is then ready for use. Finally, it is put on to the surface 
while hot with a large brush. It is usual to put on two 
coats, and a contrivance in the shape of a cross piece 
of wood at the back of the frame is used for straining 
the silk more tightly after the first coat of size. The 
colours that the Japanese use are mixed and prepared 
in the following manner. Whitening, which is the 
basis of most colours, is pounded with a pestle and 
mortar into a very fine powder ; then a little size which 
has been boiled and strained is poured in, and the whole 
is beaten up and worked into a ball. This ball is 
thrown over and over again into the mortar until it is well 
beaten. A little water is poured over the lump, which 
is then heated over a fire until it breaks and spreads. 
In this state, after cooling a little, it is well worked 
up, with perhaps the addition of water, until a white 
pulpy putty is produced ; the artist is very careful all 
the time to avoid grit. Other colours are principally 
prepared from powders, which are beaten up in little 
porcelain cups with small pestles, and are mixed with a 
little size and water into saucers, stirred all the while 
with the finger and heated over the fire until dry, or 
nearly so. When required for use they must be worked 
up again with the finger and water, and it is a good plan 

56 



A TRANQUIL WATERWAY 



.// 














' I . J 



' r > 



i 







N I 



jmm|m-; 



'/* 



Painters and their Methods 

when first mixing the colours to paste paper over the 
saucers, leaving a small hole for the insertion of the 
brush. Gamboge and a vegetable red resembling 
crimson lake are both used without size. The latter 
is prepared from a woollen material which is torn up 
into shreds and put into a saucer ; then it is mixed with 
boiling water and afterwards strained through paper. 
It is drawn off in small quantities into several saucers 
and carefully dried over the fire. There is a colour 
which is much used called Taisha, which is like burnt 
sienna; then there is Tan, a sort of orange, and Shi, 
a vermilion red. The red is prepared in two different 
ways, first by being mixed cold in a cup with a pestle, 
a little size, and water. In this preparation the colour 
separates into a deep red and orange, the latter floating 
on the top. The orange is afterwards saved and used 
instead of Tan — Tan, not being permanent, turns black 
and disappears ; it is used sometimes to shade ladies' 
faces, but fades very much. In using this preparation 
of orange and red, the brush must be first dipped in 
yellow and then the tip of it in the red, so as to take 
up both portions of the mixture. 

Another way of preparing Shi is to heat a saucer 
until the finger can hardly bear the touch, and then 
pour in some size and put the powdered pigment in it 
while still on the fire. When it has dried it is taken off 
and mixed with the finger very hot, a little water being 
added gradually, until it is of a thickish consistency. 
Shi thus mixed is of a deep red without any orange 
precipitate, and is used for upper washes, for, having a 

57 



Japan 

great deal of orange in it, it would be too black if used 
for undertones. In mixing indigo blue from a cake, 
the saucer is put over the fire to dry, and a little size is 
added. It is then rubbed with the finger, and water is 
gradually added. Taisha, when in a cake, is also 
prepared in this way. Taisha is used for the face 
and hair. The hair is shaded off with Indian ink, and 
the muscles of the face are washed in with Taisha 
having no white but a little black mixed with it ; the 
feet and hands are handled in the same way. Then 
the face is washed over again with the same colour, 
only a little lighter. Broad masses of shading are 
introduced, and the nose, mouth, and edge of the 
cheek are generally left to be shaded in. It is con- 
sidered better to use a number of light tones than one 
dark tone, and the washes on the face are repeated two 
or three times. The hair also is washed over with a 
large brush and rather dark ink ; the eyebrows are put 
in in a single wash ; also the corners of the eyes and 
mouth, which are flicked in and then washed off again. 
The lips are put in with vermilion and shaded off with 
another brush. A mixture of red, white, and Indian 
ink forming a dull purple is used for the pupils of the 
eyes, and the same mixture with a greater proportion of 
red, and consequently a little lighter, is used for going 
over the outline, and the ends of some of the lines are 
washed off with another brush. The same purple colour, 
but lighter still, is used as a backing to the outline in 
order to soften the edges, and a few touches of purple 
are painted in under the eyes and ears. The lips are 

58 



BEARING A BURDEN 



Painters and their Methods 

touched with carmine, and the teeth and eyeballs with 
a little white. The under-lip and corners of the eyes 
are touched with lines or dots of light Indian ink, and 
the top eyelids and tops of lower eyelids are outlined with 
thin lines. The outline of the pupil is very fine ; but 
the dot of the eye is made very black ; the nostrils are 
painted in in light ink, shaded off afterwards and out- 
lined in black. The hair round the mouth is put in 
in very light ink with a finely pointed brush. 

There are many ways of painting the hair. Some- 
times a fine brush is used with single parallel lines, and 
sometimes it is washed in with a broad brush with light 
ink below and darker above. In old silk pictures great 
depth used to be obtained by painting the hair on the 
back of the silk as well as on the front. For painting 
leaves a mixture of indigo and gamboge is generally 
used with a full brush, the tip of the brush being dipped 
in indigo. By this method, the dark colour on the tip 
of the brush being after a time exhausted, the lighter 
green appears, and thus a natural variety of gradation 
is given to the colour of the leaves. Trees and rocks, 
etc., are often scrubbed in with a rather dry brush 
worked sideways and forming broken lines. 

Another method of drawing a figure is to outline 
in charcoal, after which the face with its markings is 
outlined with a kind of Indian ink. Then with the 
same Indian ink, but with broader lines and a large 
brush, the drapery is boldly swept in with lines that 
should break in parts and form a drag. This drag 
must come naturally by pressing the brush firmly on 

59 



J a p 



an 



the silk or paper ; any attempt to force it would end in 
failure. The hair should then be worked in with a large 
spread brush, care being taken to give the hairs a radial 
tendency and not let them cross confusedly. Sometimes 
this hair is painted with a fine brush and with single 
lines. For the background two large brushes are used, 
one fitted with light ink and the other with plain water 
to shade off the black. The face and the breast are 
treated in the same way. The outlines of the drapery are 
sometimes washed in with a lighter tone to project over 
the edge and soften them. The face is washed with a 
mixture of red and ink, leaving only the eyes. The 
work is finished by using a small brush and very black 
ink for the markings of the mouth, centre of the eyes, 
under the eyelids, nostrils, and ear-rings. 

Japanese artists study a great deal from life, and in 
order to draw a figure full of spirit and action they will 
often work in this way. Beginning with a very full 
brush, they sketch in the general swing of the figure 
with a few well-chosen broad black lines — as, for instance, 
when drawing the legs of a horse or a lobster they will 
put them in with one broad wash. Then they strain 
thin Japanese paper over this spirited sketch, and begin 
to elaborate on it with finer work, until in the end they 
produce a picture that has high finish, but possessing 
all the action and spirit of a first impression. 

The Japanese system of studying Nature in detail, 
but not with a view to creating a picture, is perhaps 
especially noticeable in their drawings of women. It 
would be considered coarse and vulgar in the extreme 

60 



THE END OF THE DAY 
AND THE END OF THE FESTIVAL 



Painters and their Methods 

to paint a woman in the glaring light of a studio, 
copying every feature and wrinkle, line for line, as you 
would copy a man. Kiyosai explains that it is im- 
possible to create a beautiful face by drawing direct 
from life, especially in line. The only way in which 
it can be achieved is by suggesting a natural beauty 
on paper, and by imitating a conventional type away 
from nature. The Japanese have a conventional type 
of beauty just as we have, and just as the Greeks had 
years ago — an ideal that has been evolved from the 
aggregate of myriads of beautiful women, — and this 
ideal of theirs must be a woman possessing small lips, 
with eyelids scarcely showing, and eyebrows far above 
the eyes. The forehead must be narrow at the top 
and widening towards the base, looking altogether very 
like a pyramid with its top cut off; the nose should 
be aquiline, and the whole woman must appear to 
be the personification of softness and delicacy. The 
conventional type of a Japanese man has always the 
legs and arms placed in impossible positions to denote 
strength, and the muscles are greatly exaggerated. 

In the old masters of Japan great importance is 
attached to flesh markings, more especially in pictures 
of men. In a sketch of a fat man trying to lift 
a heavy weight, the action would be suggested in a 
few swift lines with no shading, but just two small 
horizontal lines at the back of the neck. Those two 
little flesh markings portray the fat man to perfection, 
admirably suggesting both the strain of the action and 
the bulk of the man. But in talking of the art of 

61 



Japan 

Japan and the methods of the Japanese painter, I feel 
that I cannot do better than describe a day that I 
once spent with that greatest of all living artists, 
Kiyosai, at the house of Captain Brinkley. This 
gentleman invited Kiyosai to come to his house one 
morning, and I was asked to watch and follow the 
whole process of his work, and as far as possible to 
learn from him his theories about painting. It was a 
splendid chance for me as a painter, especially as Captain 
Brinkley, who has resided in Japan for many years, and 
is a Japanese scholar of high attainment, acted as 
interpreter between Kiyosai and myself. 

Kiyosai, I may say, is known all over Japan. From 
the highest noble to the lowest ragged child in the 
streets, all know the artist and love his work, for the 
pictures of a popular painter get abroad in Japan much 
as they get abroad here — Kiyosai's pictures and sketches 
being reproduced and published in the Japanese papers 
just as they would be published in Western magazines. 
When any drawing by Kiyosai appears a rush is made 
for the paper. These drawings of his are really superb 
work, and I could not help feeling how great a privilege 
it was to come into contact with such a man. 

I arrived at my host's quite early in the morning, 
for I was to have a whole day with my Japanese fellow- 
worker. I was introduced at once to an old man, grave 
and very dignified in bearing, and I found it difficult 
at first to realise that this was the painter of whom I 
had heard so much. He was sitting on the floor 
smoking, while his assistant was busy stretching silk 

62 



IN FRONT OF THE STALL 



Painters and their Methods 

and preparing colours. As a rule, to see a Japanese 
smoke is to get at once a clue to the nature of the 
people. But Kiyosai was peculiar even in this. He 
was one of the few men who would take only one draw 
from his pipe ; in the most dignified manner possible 
he would take that one whiff and then knock out the 
contents of his pipe, repeating the process as long as he 
continued to smoke. He had the most remarkable 
hands, too, ever seen, with long and slim thumbs — 
more sensitive, artistic, capable hands, from the 
chiromancer's point of view, could hardly be. He 
was enthusiastic, but prodigiously dignified, and used 
his hands just a little, yet in the most impressive way. 
He never rose from his sitting posture, and every time 
I said anything that was at all complimentary he 
received it with charming ceremony, by bowing to the 
very ground. 

No sooner was I introduced than his face seemed 
to light up, his eyes became intensely brilliant, and his 
conversation not less so. He was enthusiastic in his 
desire to learn about English painters and English art 
generally, and eager to tell me his own views of art, 
and all he felt about it. To my pleased confusion, he 
seemed to regard me with an interest equalling mine 
for him. He put many questions about English art, 
and told me much that was interesting about his own. 
He spoke of the effect made on him by some English 
pictures. " I have seen a number of English and 
European pictures," he said ; " but they all appear to 
me very much alike. I hear that in England and all 

63 



Japan 

over Europe they say the Japanese pictures look to 
them all alike. Why is this ? ' The explanation was 
not immediately forthcoming, for at first sight it seemed 
so extraordinary that to this man English pictures 
looked all alike. But immediately the truth forced 
itself upon me, as it will force itself upon the reader. 
European pictures are all wonderfully alike. It struck 
me that when, not long before, I was on a " hanging 
committee," and had passing before me several thousand 
pictures, it was only here and there that my attention 
was arrested by the individuality of some of the work. 
For the most part they were the same pigments, the 
same high lights, and the same deep shadows ; and 
mentally seeing this procession of pictures pass before 
me, I could not avoid seeing how grievously alike 
European pictures were. I had in some sort, indeed, 
felt this before, and was delighted on having the im- 
pression " fixed," so to speak, by the Japanese master. 

I saw a number of Japanese pictures, and I certainly 
found them far more individual than our work is. We 
say these Japanese works are insipid, out of perspective, 
and all pretty much the same. Here is a painter of 
Japan who brings a similar charge against our much 
more complex pictures — this, surely, is a new and a 
valuable lesson, full of suggestion for the thoughtful 
painter ! 

Kiyosai next began to discuss drawing, and, as he was 
speaking to an Englishman, English drawing in parti- 
cular. " I hear that when artists in England are paint- 
ing," he said, " if they are painting a bird, they stand 

64 



THE STALL BY THE BRIDGE 



Painters and their Methods 

that bird up in their back garden, or in their studio, and 
begin to paint it at once, then and there, never quite 
deciding what they are going to paint, never thinking 
of the particular pose and action of the bird that is to 
be represented on the canvas. Now, suppose that bird 
suddenly moves one leg up— what does the English 
artist do then ? " He could not understand how an 
English painter could paint with the model before him. 
I naturally told him that they copied what they saw ; 
that they got over the difficulty as best they could. 
" I do not quite understand that," he said. " In my own 
practice I look at the bird ; I want to paint him as he 
is. He has got a pose. Good ! Then he suddenly 
puts down his head, and there is another pose. The bare 
fact of the bird being there in an altered pose would 
compel me to alter my idea ; and so on, until at last I 
could paint nothing at all." I asked him what, then, 
was his method. " I watch my bird," he replied, " and 
the particular pose I wish to copy before I attempt to 
represent it. I observe that very closely until he moves 
and the attitude is altered. Then I go away and record 
as much of that particular pose as I can remember. 
Perhaps I may be able to put down only three or four 
lines ; but directly I have lost the impression I stop. 
Then I go back again and study that bird until it takes 
the same position as before. And then I again try and 
retain as much as I can of it. In this way I began 
by spending a whole day in a garden watching a bird 
and its particular attitude, and in the end I have re- 
membered the pose so well, by continually trying to 
5 65 



J a p 



an 



represent it, that I am able to repeat it entirely from 
my impression — but not from the bird. It is a hind- 
rance to have the model before me when I have a 
mental note of the pose. What I do is a painting 
from memory, and it is a true impression. I have 
filled hundreds of sketch-books," he continued, "of 
different sorts of birds and fish and other things, and 
have at last got a facility, and have trained my memory 
to such an extent, that by observing the rapid action 
of a bird I can nearly always retain and produce it. 
By a lifelong training I have made my memory so 
keen that I think I may say I can reproduce anything 
I have once seen." 

Such, then, is Kiyosai's method of work. It is 
purely natural, and one that has obtained for generations, 
and that is the Japanese whole theory of art. Captain 
Brinkley told me a story, the outcome of that conversa- 
tion. Kiyosai came one day to work at a screen which 
Captain Brinkley was very anxious for him to com- 
plete ; but he could not finish it at the time, do what he 
would. He said nothing ; but it came out that he had 
a fresh impression in his mind, and he could not go on 
with the old impression until he had worked off" the 
new one — something he had seen on his way up to the 
house. 

The painters always live with fish, and birds, and 
animals of different sorts. They have fish in bottles 
and in ponds in their gardens. I went to many studios 
in Japan, and I found each one with its ponds and fish 
in the little garden surrounding the studio, and birds 

66 



STREET OF PINK LANTERNS 




; 






Painters and their Methods 

as well. They always study nature, and I believe that 
is the keynote of their art. 

The technique of Kiyosai's work was most fascinating. 
I had come away from England with all sorts of theories 
concerning the technical part of an artist's work, and 
when I got to Japan I found there was absolutely 
nothing that was not known to this man. His method 
of work, too, interested me exceedingly. To begin 
with, the assistant brought his stretcher of silk — a 
lovely piece of silk stretched across a wooden frame — and 
placed it in front of him. Then, taking a long burnt 
twig, he thought for a few minutes, looking all the while 
at his silk — thought out his picture, indeed, before he put 
a single touch on his canvas. How different is this from 
the man who so often, with us, puts on a lot of hasty 
touches in the hope that they will suggest the picture ! 
When this Jap saw his picture complete in his mind, he 
began with the little burnt twig to trace a few sure lines. 
I never saw such facility in my life. A few swift strokes 
indicated the outline on the silk of two black crows ; 
then he took up his brush and began at once with the 
Indian ink, with full powerful colour ; and in about 
seven minutes he had completed a picture, superbly 
drawn and full of character — a complete impression of 
two black crows, very nearly life-size, resting on the 
branch of a tree. 

Kiyosai never amid any circumstances repeats himself: 
every picture he paints is different, while for his work he 
asks but a small price. After he had done his crows he 
painted a coloured picture, beginning with Indian ink. 

67 



Japan 

First he tried all his colours, which were ready prepared 
in different little blue pots and placed around him. 
These little shallow pots or saucers had each its own 
liquid, which the assistant had prepared to a certain 
extent beforehand. They contained flesh tint, drapery 
colour, tones for hair, gold ornaments, and so forth. 
These colours had evidently been used before, as they 
were in their saucers, merely requiring dilution before 
immediate use. The saucers were arranged chiefly on 
his right, with a great vessel of water, of which he used 
a great deal. All his utensils were scrupulously clean. 
When he began there was no fishing for tones as on 
the average palette. No accident ! All was sure — a 
scientific certainty from beginning to the end. The 
picture was the portrait of a woman. It displayed 
enormous facility and great knowledge, and his treatment 
of the drapery was remarkable ; but altogether it pleased 
me less. No attempt was there at what is called broken 
colour. A black dress would be one beautiful tone of 
black, and flesh one clean tone of flesh, shadows growing 
out of the mass and forming a part of the whole. As 
this work was a very simple impression, he finished the 
coloured picture in a few minutes. But on the whole, 
in one sense, it was less satisfactory. It appeared as if 
he had studied his subject less, for it was a little conven- 
tional. He was less happy in it ; but, of course, he did 
not admit this to himself. 

He did four pictures, and each of them took from 
about seven to ten minutes, these constituting the finest 
lesson in water-colour painting I ever received in my 

68 



ARCHERS 



Painters and their Methods 

life. Here is his idea of finish : once the impression 
of the detail and the finish of the object is recorded 
you can do nothing better ; so far as the painter's 
impression of finish goes, so far must the rendering go, 
and no farther. Artistically he had become exhausted 
by doing these four pictures — in invention, I mean. 
You see, the man was heart and soul in the work. He 
lives, poor fellow, on almost nothing. He is a very 
independent man, refusing to work for money, and 
declining to paint for the market. 

Nearly every artist in Japan has his own favourite 
stick of Indian ink, which he values as his very life. It 
is essential that this ink should be of the very finest 
quality, for they drink so much of it. In order to 
execute those fine lines ending in a broad sweep that 
is so characteristic of Japanese pictures, an artist must 
first fill his brush with Indian ink and then apply it 
to his lips until the tip becomes pointed. The ink is 
of course swallowed ; but if it is of a good quality, to 
drink pints of it would not do a man the slightest harm. 
A practical proof of this can be found in the fact that 
Kiyosai, who is an old man, has been drinking Indian 
ink steadily with every picture he has painted all through 
his lifetime. He possesses a small piece of Indian ink 
which is hundreds of years old, and which all the money 
in the world could not buy. It is far too precious for 
broad washes, and is only used here and there for bright 
touches. 

I noticed the tender way in which Kiyosai handled 
this one precious piece of Indian ink, and that led to 

69 



Japan 

a very interesting conversation on blacks, after which 
I realised that the variations and gradations to be pro- 
cured with black alone were enormous. Kiyosai told 
me that when he was very young he was puzzled by 
the exceedingly rich quality of black in one of his 
master's pictures. It was a deep, velvety, luminous 
black, and young Kiyosai struggled for weeks and weeks 
to match it, but in vain. He came to the conclusion 
that there must be some work going on at the back 
of the picture, and at last one night he became so 
desperate that, stealing into his master's room while he 
lay asleep, he soaked off the picture which had been 
pasted on to a board, and looked at the back of it. 
One glance was enough, and little Kiyosai, with a 
throb of pleasure, hastily pasted the picture together 
again and stole away to experiment all that night on 
silk and on paper, " painting black both on the front 
and on the back." 

I inquired of Kiyosai if he had ever painted in oils, 
and he assured me that he had not ; but a few days later 
Captain Brinkley showed me a little picture painted in 
lacquer by Kiyosai which, in my opinion, rivalled for 
brilliancy any oil picture that has ever been painted, or 
has still to be painted. The surface was as brilliant as 
glass ; yet the picture had a depth which no ordinary oil 
pigment could hope to reach, while its deep luminous 
shadows would put to shame the finest of Van Ike's 
pictures. 

An English friend of mine resident in Japan once 
told me a story of Kiyosai which struck me as 

70 



A RELIGIOUS PROCESSION 








./. 



^ 



' $»*>» 






-5 






Painters and their Methods 

being typical of that great master. A friend of his 
had prepared four magnificent sliding panels covered 
with the finest silk, and had given them to the painter 
with the request that he would execute some of his 
masterpieces on them for him. For eight or nine years 
Kiyosai had kept those panels, and they still remained 
bare; but great masters are always erratic, and the would- 
be purchaser never gave up hope. One day, however, 
he burst in upon my friend with the terrible intelligence 
that Kiyosai was dead drunk and had ruined his panels. 
" He's smashing away at them on the floor, and he is 
simply crawling over them," he said in a towering rage. 
My friend agreed to go round with him to Kiyosai's 
house to try if possible to stop the outrage. When they 
arrived they found the master in a high state of fever, 
and looking more like a wild animal than a human 
being, with his tusk-like teeth and his poor pitted face, 
sweeping and hacking about all over the silken panels. 
As they entered, Kiyosai left the room, leaving behind 
him the panels scattered irregularly over the floor, but 
each one smothered with work. " Look here," said my 
friend very generously : " it was I that introduced Kiyosai 
to you, and it was I that suggested his painting these 
doors ; therefore it is only fair that I should relieve you 
of them and find you a new set, which I will willingly do." 
But the owner of the panels, shrewdly guessing that my 
friend had not made this magnanimous offer without 
some good reason, changed his mind and said that he 
could on no account receive so costly a gift. He kept 
them, and wisely too, for these four panels are now 

7 1 



Japan 

universally considered as some of Kiyosai's greatest 
masterpieces. 

Strange to say, Kiyosai, when painting his finest work, 
is nearly always drunk, and his weakness is often taken 
a mean advantage of by the people around him. I 
remember once attending a party given by a Legation 
person who had invited a dozen or so of Japan's finest 
artists — among them the great Kiyosai, the master — 
to paint pictures on the floor for the edification of the 
assembled guests — a rather vulgar proceeding. Kiyosai 
resented this indignity with all the force of his passion- 
ate nature, but out of kindness allowed himself to be 
over-persuaded by his host. They made him drink and 
keep on drinking to build up his enthusiasm ; but, 
boiling over with rage and indignation, he kept on 
putting off" his time until the whole twelve artists had 
finished the sketches, although, fearing that the effect 
of the drink would wear off, the guests begged him to 
start at once. At last Kiyosai's time came. The silk lay 
prepared on the floor, with the ink and brushes ready 
for him to begin. Mad with rage and hating his 
unsympathetic audience, Kiyosai stood, or rather knelt, 
before his silk, fiercely grasping the brush, holding 
it downwards with all his fingers round it and thumb 
turned outwards. He looked like a god as he knelt 
there, gripping his brush and staring at the silk — he was 
seeing his picture. He executed a flight of crows, a 
masterpiece — Kiyosai knew it was a masterpiece — and, 
proudly drawing himself up to his full height, quivering 
in every limb, he threw down his brush, skidded the silk 

72 



REFLECTIONS 






Painters and their Methods 

along the floor towards the spectators, and, saying 
" That is Kiyosai," left the house in disgust. The 
dignity of the little man cowed his spectators. Every 
one unconsciously felt the magnetism of the man, and 
realised that a master had been among them. 



73 






AN AVENUE OF LANTERNS 



PLACING 



THE RED CURTAIN 



CHAPTER IV 

PLACING 

In Japan there is no such thing as accident. A scene 
which in its beauty and perfect placing appears to 
the visitor to be the result of Nature in an unusually 
generous mood, has in reality been the object of infinite 
care and thought and anxious deliberation to these little 
Japanese artists, the landscape gardeners. That temple 
which seems to place itself so remarkably well in relation 
to the big lines of Nature, its background, has been 
carefully built and thought out from that standpoint 
alone. The great trees by the side of the temple, with 
their graceful jutting boughs that form the principal 
feature of the picture, have not grown like that, for 
all their apparent naturalness ; they have been nursed 
and grafted and forced into shape with the utmost care 
imaginable. 

The sense of perfect placing, which is the sense of 
balance, is the true secret of the Japanese art, by which 
they attain perfection. All Orientals are more or 
less possessed of this intuitive sense of balance, and 
the Japanese carry it into the most minute details of 

77 



Japan 

daily life. If you enter a Japanese room you will 
always find that the bough of blossom is placed in 
relation to the kakemono and other furniture to form 
a picture. And the special note of Japanese house 
decoration is this bough of blossom, with which I was 
immensely struck. Now, this is an altogether artistic 
thing. At one party at which I was present I saw a piece 
of blossom-bough put right out at a curious angle from 
a beautiful blue jar. Turning to my neighbour, a young 
Japanese friend who could talk English perfectly well, 
I said, " How beautiful that is ! — although, of course, 
its quaint curious form is merely accident." " No — no 
accident at all," he replied. " Do you know, it has been 
a matter of great care, this placing of the plant in the 
room in relation to other objects? ' I was afterwards 
informed that in many a household in Japan the children 
are trained in the method of placing a branch or a 
piece of blossom, and they have books with diagrams 
illustrating the proper way of disposing flowers in 
a pot. 

The outsides as well as the insides of their houses are 
decorated in the harmonious principle, even to the paint- 
ing of signs in the street. They are most particular 
about placing their richly coloured sign duly in relation 
to its surroundings. In the same way — whether the 
subject may be done in a string of lanterns or what not 
— whatever is done is done harmoniously, and in no 
case is decoration the result of accident. The sum of 
it all is that every shop in an ordinary street is a perfect 
picture. At first you are amazed at the beauty of 

78 



IN THE EYE OF THE SUN 



Placing 

everything. " How in the world is it," you ask your- 
self, " that by a series of apparent accidents everything 
appears beautiful?" You cannot imagine until you 
know that even the "common man" has acquired the 
scientific placing of his things, and that the feeling 
permeates all classes. Perhaps, however, one of the 
most curious experiences I had of the native artistic 
instinct of Japan occurred in this way. I had got a 
number of fanholders and was busying myself one after- 
noon in arranging them upon the walls. My little 
Japanese servant boy was in the room, and as I went 
on with my work I caught an expression on his face 
from time to time which showed that he was not over- 
pleased with my performance. After a while, as this 
dissatisfied expression seemed to deepen, I asked him 
what the matter was. Then he frankly confessed that 
he did not like the way in which I was arranging my 
fanholders. " Why did you not tell me so at once ? "' I 
asked. "You are an artist from England," he replied, 
"and it was not for me to speak." However, I 
persuaded him to arrange the fanholders himself after 
his own taste, and I must say that I received a remarkable 
lesson. The task took him about two hours, placing, 
arranging, adjusting ; and when he had finished the 
result was simply beautiful. That wall was a perfect 
picture ; every fanholder seemed to be exactly in its 
right place, and it looked as if the alteration of a single 
one would affect and disintegrate the whole scheme. 
I accepted the lesson with due humility, and remained 
more than ever convinced that the Japanese are what 

79 



Japan 

they have justly claimed to be, an essentially artistic 
people instinct with living art. 

It is, in point of fact, almost impossible to exaggerate 
the importance attached to the placing of an object by 
every Japanese, and it would be no exaggeration to say 
that if a common coolie were given an addressed envelope 
to stamp he would take great pains to place that little 
coloured patch in relation to the name and address in 
order to form a decorative pattern. Can you imagine 
a tradesman and his family, wife and children, running 
across the Strand to watch the placing of a saucepan in 
their window ? Yet this is no unusual occurrence in 
Japan. You will often see a family collected on the 
opposite side of the road watching their father place a 
signboard in front of his shop. It might be a grocer's 
shop, and all — even to the mite strapped to the back of 
its sister — are eagerly watching the moving about of 
this board, and are interested to see that it should place 
itself well in relation to the broad masses around, such 
as the tea-box, etc. 

Now, people who think so much of the details of 
balance must necessarily approach art in a very different 
manner from that in which we approach it. Would a 
tradesman in England hesitate before placing his stamps 
on a bill ? The tradesman in Japan does. Imagine 
an artist spending three days in anxious thought as to 
where he should place his signature on his picture ! 
And yet this is what Kiyosai, the greatest of modern 
painters, actually did before he affixed his red stamp 
to the hasty sketch of a crow. I have known little 

80 



FLOWER OF THE TEA 



Placing 

Japanese painters to ponder for hours, and sometimes 
weeks, over the placing of this little vermilion stamp so 
that it shall form perfect balance, and in all probability 
the picture itself has only taken a few minutes. Suppose, 
for instance, a painter has contrived to produce a rapid 
sketch of a flying crow, or perhaps a fish. That fleeting 
impression was so strong that he was able to produce 
it at once without any hesitation ; but however vivid 
and lifelike the picture might be, if the balance were 
destroyed by the ugly placing of this one little spot 
of vermilion, from the Japanese standpoint the picture 
would be utterly worthless. And the proper placing of a 
thing is really most important. Even the most ignorant 
and uneducated in matters of art are influenced on see- 
ing a perfect bit of placing. To live with some beautiful 
thing, a flower or a bough well placed, to watch its 
delicious curves or the tender buds of a purple iris just 
bursting, must give joy, and it does, although one may 
be quite unconscious of its gentle power. 

The Japanese understand these subtleties as do no 
other nation. If they are entertaining a guest, their 
one aim and object is to make him perfectly and 
deliriously happy ; they strive to divine his inmost 
thoughts and desires ; it is their ambition to satisfy 
them to the best of their ability. 

A friend of mine, an American, once gave me a 
description of a week he had spent with a very ancient 
Japanese gentleman in a little country village ; it was 
a week of intense interest and happiness to him, one 
which, when he grows to be as old as his host was 
6 81 



Japan 

then, will still remain in his memory with a lingering 
sweetness as something good to be remembered, some- 
thing purer and quite apart from the regular routine 
of his past life. He was a student, a naturalist ; and 
the purity of this Japanese household, the seclusion and 
dainty decoration of his study, the freedom of it all, 
and the kindly attention and sympathy that was prof- 
fered to him by every member of the family, combined 
to make the quiet recluse feel, for once in his life, 
almost boisterously happy. Towards the end of his visit 
he tried to look back and discover what it was that 
had brought about this unwonted feeling of joy in him, 
little realising that all this time these dear people had 
been scheming and planning for no other object than 
to give him pleasure. It was not until the last day 
of his stay, however, that it all unfolded itself clearly 
before his eyes, and that he learnt the reason why he 
had been so happy. On this last morning he had 
chanced to rise early — at daybreak, in fact — and as he 
passed the room that he had been using as a general 
sitting-room, he saw through the partially-opened sliding 
doors a sight which caught his breath with amazement, 
and made tears spring to his eyes. There was his host, 
the dear ancient Japanese gentleman, kneeling before a 
bough of pink blossom, which he was struggling to 
arrange in a fine blue china pot. The naturalist stood 
and watched him for nearly an hour, as he clipped a 
bough here, and bent a twig there, leaning back on his 
heels now and then to view his handiwork through 
half-closed eyes. He must see that the blossom placed 

82 



A STREET IN KIOTO 



Placing 

itself well from the decorative standpoint in relation 
to the kakemono that hung close by ; he must also see 
that the curves of the bough were correct ; and the 
care taken by this old gentleman in the bending of the 
bough was a lesson to my friend. It became clear to 
him that every morning his aged host must have risen 
at daybreak to perform this little act of kindness. 
Like a flash he remembered that each day there had 
been some dainty new arrangement of flowers placed 
in his room for him to enjoy. He had not given it 
much thought, for it looked more or less like an 
accident, flowers that had formed themselves naturally 
into that shape ; yet, all unconsciously, this little bit of 
perfect placing had influenced his work and had gone 
far towards making the visit so joyous to him. He did 
not understand placing ; but it interested him and gave 
him an intense amount • of pleasure, in the same way 
that superbly fine work always does even to the most 
uneducated. 

The proper placing of objects is not only an exact 
science, but also it forms almost a religion with the 
Japanese. When you just arrive in Japan you are at 
once impressed with the perfect placing of everything 
about you. You find yourself surrounded by a series 
of beautiful pictures ; every street that you see on your 
journey from the station to the hotel is a picture ; every 
shop front, the combination of the many streets, the 
town in relation to the mountains round about it — 
everything you chance to look at forms a picture. In 
fact, the whole of Japan is one perfect bit of placing. 

83 



Japan 

" Nature has favoured this place," says the globe- 
trotter. " I never found when I lived in Surrey that 
great trees placed themselves against hill-sides so as to 
form perfect pictures. I never saw the lines of a 
bush pick up those of a fence with one broad sweep. 
Nature never behaved like that in Dorking." Of 
course Nature didn't ; nor does she in Japan. There 
the whole country, every square inch of it, is thought 
out and handled by great artists. There is no accident 
in the beautiful curves of the trees that the globe- 
trotter so justly admires : these trees have been trained 
and shaped and forced to form a certain decorative 
pattern, and the result is — perfection. We in the 
West labour under the delusion that if Nature were 
to be allowed to have her own sweet way, she would 
always be beautiful. But the Japanese have gone 
much further than this: they realise that Nature does 
not always do the right thing ; they know that occasion- 
ally trees will grow up to form ugly lines ; and they 
know exactly how to adapt and help her. She is 
to them like some beautiful musical instrument, finer 
than any ever made by human hands, but still an 
instrument, with harmonies to be coaxed out. And 
the Japanese play on Nature, not only in a concentrated 
way as with a kakemono or a flower in a room, but 
also in the biggest possible form, on landscapes ; 
dragging in mountains, colossal trees, rushing cataracts 
— nothing is too much or too great an undertaking 
for these masters of decoration. Any ordinary little 
baby boy that is born in Japan has almost a greater 

8+ 



HEAVY-LADEN 



Placing 

decorative sense] than the finest painter here in the 
West. 

All this beauty and perfection that meets one on every 
side is the result of centuries and centuries of habit, until 
it has become intuitive to the people. I can safely say 
there is no point in Japan where an artist cannot stand 
still and frame between his hands a picture that will be 
perfect in placing and design. In a Japanese garden, 
every stepping-stone, every tree, every little miniature 
out-house, is thought out as a bit of placing to form 
perfect balance. And it is thought out not as an 
isolated bit of Nature, but in relation to everything 
around that you can see, whether it is a temple, a large 
tree, or the side of a hill ; and whatever position you 
happen to be in, in that garden you will always see 
a perfectly balanced picture. When you have been 
pottering about in the towns for some weeks, you 
eventually become accustomed to the idea that every- 
thing is thought out by these brilliant students in order 
to form a picture, and you begin to feel proud of the 
knowledge you have gleaned and to make practical use 
of it. You escort your friends, who are a trifle fresher 
than yourself, about the towns, pointing out to them 
that there is no accident in all the beauties that they so 
much admire — the shops, the signboards, the placing 
of the flower by the side of the workman — all this has 
been carefully thought out from the decorative stand- 
point, to be beautiful. But then, when one travels from 
the beaten track, away out in the country, even the 
resident who is by way of being artistic, and has had 

85 



Japan 

the fact that the Japanese are an artistic people driven 
into his stupid head by sheer force, even this poor dear 
is swept off his feet when he finds that Nature is still 
going on doing the same thing all these miles away 
from the town. He has probably come to view the 
cherry-blossom, and he discovers to his amazement 
that these huge hill-sides of blossom place themselves 
perfectly one against the other — colossal trees with 
jutty boughs frame themselves against the sides of 
the mountains to form a picture. One huge sweep 
of blossom is thought out in relation to another 
sweep that is deeper in tone ; near by is a curiously- 
shaped bare patch of earth which is designed to give 
value to the brighter colour ; and so it continues 
indefinitely. 

The whole country is thought out in huge blotches 
to form a picture perfect in harmony and in design. I 
once had a very interesting experience of the felling of 
a tree in Japan, and here again placing formed a very 
prominent part of the proceedings. Of course this 
was placing of a nature very different from the artistic 
placing that I have just described ; but as a scientific bit 
of work it was simply wonderful ! It was an enormous 
tree by the side of a temple ; there were two little 
men sawing away at its base, little mites of men, half 
hidden by the huge gaping crowd, chiefly composed 
of children, that stood watching the performance, 
waiting for the tree to fall. A wall stood close by 
with an opening cut in it, just large enough to allow 
the trunk to place itself ; and away in the distance 

86 



BY THE SIDE OF THE TEMPLE 



- 








1 




Placin 

strewn about at different angles were a series of huge 
stone boulders, and these, I soon found out, were to 
split up the boughs for firewood when the tree fell, 
thus saving labour. Imagine the science of it — the 
calculation and the accuracy of their judgment ! The 
men went on sawing, every now and then pausing 
in their work to look up at the sky with their 
backs against the wall. At last there came a moment 
when the excitement was terrific : the trunk was nearly 
sawed through, and the tree seemed prepared to fall 
anywhere and everywhere, more particularly in my 
direction. Presently it began to give slightly, and it 
was one of the prettiest and most wonderful things I 
have ever seen in my life, the way that tree began to 
bend — gently, gracefully, ever so gently, the trunk 
fitting itself into the wall, and the branches dashing on 
to those great boulders that were waiting for them, 
splitting them up into fragments. Those little mites of 
Japanese handling that giant of a tree was a sight that I 
shall never forget. Where we would have had twenty 
men with ropes and paraphernalia, they had nothing 
but their big heads and their power to place a thing 
mathematically in the right position to help them. And 
it all looked so graceful and so easy that it would not 
have surprised me in the least to have seen one of those 
little men come sailing down on the branches. But 
what struck me the most forcibly was the great 
confidence of the people. They all stood round, 
almost touching the tree, but quite sure of the success 
of this venture ; the fact that it was possible for the 

87 



Japan 

wood-cutter to fail never occurring to them for an 
instant. 

Placing takes a prominent part in everything that 
the Japanese undertake ; it shows itself not only in 
the arrangement of the landscape and in artistic matters 
where there is scope for their decorative powers, but 
also in small, out-of-the-way, inartistic things, as, for 
instance, photography. I have seen in the Tokio 
shop -windows photographs taken by native corre- 
spondents during the Chinese war, and it was quite 
extraordinary how their sense of placing showed itself 
even in this. You never by any chance see a photograph 
by a Japanese looking in the least like a European. If 
they photograph a group of men they will be sure to 
place that group near a great bough that juts across the 
picture ; they cannot help it — it seems to be in the 
blood of a Japanese to be decorative. Their taste with 
regard to enjoyment is widely different from ours : a 
little bit of Nature which would give them intense 
pleasure would probably be ignored by us altogether. 
We want parks and stags and moorlands, broad ex- 
panses of country and huge avenues, while the Japanese 
will be content with one exquisite little harmony. They 
will gaze for whole hours in rapture at a little branch 
of peach-blossom, only a cluster, just a few inches of 
rose-red peach-blossom, with a slim grey twig, placing 
itself against a background of hills that stretch away in 
the distance indefinitely. 

At the same time they love expanse of view as well. 
It is one of their greatest joys to look from the top of 

88 



PEACH-BLOSSOM 




.*■ . 





■ 






Placing 

a mountain downwards, but only at certain times of the 
day. A Japanese, holiday-making, will sometimes spend 
one whole day waiting for an effect that will perhaps 
last only a few moments, or he will toil for hours up 
a mountain -side to enjoy the exquisite pleasure of a 
fleeting colour harmony. 



89 



A SUBURBAN TEA-HOUSE 



ART IN PRACTICAL LIFE 



THE TEA-HOUSE OF THE SLENDER TREE 



CHAPTER V 

ART IN PRACTICAL LIFE 

Throughout this book I have talked of Japan purely 
from the artistic standpoint. I have talked principally 
of the living art of the country and of its exquisite 
productions, and I firmly believe that it is because 
the Japs are a people of imagination that they will 
at no distant date forge ahead of other nations (who 
are depending solely upon their muscle) and become a 
dominating power. 

At the same time, it must be clearly understood 
that the artistic is not the only quality in which the 
Japs excel. Take them from any side, and it will 
be found that they have achieved remarkable success. 
Yet the average Westerner, on returning from a visit 
to Japan, has always the same superficial observation 
to make on the Japanese people. He has spent a 
few weeks in the Land of the Rising Sun ; he has 
seen the dainty tea-houses, the miniature bridges, the 
paper walls and umbrellas, their works of art modelled 
in lead — everything suggesting the dainty and the 
exquisite (and therefore, in his opinion, the flimsy) ; 

93 



Japan 

and he tells you that the people over there are all 
dear little Noah's Ark folk living in tissue-paper 
houses, very charming as dolls, but useless as men. 
"These people," he says, "have no physique; they 
would be incapable of building battleships, for example." 
For this critic one can entertain only the faintest 
possible feeling of tender pity. Is he not aware that 
these Noah's Ark folk are actually building battleships, 
that they have already a fine army superbly equipped 
with the finest of swords and guns, and that they 
have the power to handle these weapons far better 
than we can handle ours ? Every soldier in the 
Japanese army understands the mechanism of his rifle, 
and can at any moment pull it to pieces and put it 
together again, even substituting a missing portion 
if necessary. Could the same be said of our beloved 
Tommy ? The Japanese officers are no less capable 
than the privates, and I would guarantee that if by 
some mischance the sword of a Japanese officer, being 
badly tempered, should become bent, that officer would 
be capable of retempering his blade — one of the most 
difficult and delicate tasks imaginable. 

But how a certain class of equally ignorant and 
inconsistent Westerners cried out when it was known 
to the world that Japan had actually begun to use 
our rifles and to build battleships ! They will lose 
individuality and degenerate, they are adopting Western 
methods, and it will kill their art, they complained. 
How foolish this is ! The Japanese have merely 
changed their tools — exchanged the bow and arrow 

94 



Art in Practical Life 

for the sword ; they are just as artistic and just 
as intelligent as in the bow -and -arrow days ; and 
they have proved themselves to be equal to, if not 
better than, any other soldiers in the world. 

Japan is not being Westernised in the smallest 
degree : she is merely picking our brains. And how 
quickly the Japs will adopt a Western idea, and 
improve upon it ! The making of matches, and the 
underselling us in all our common printed cotton and 
woollen Manchester goods, have not spoilt their faculty 
for executing that exquisite Eugene dyeing for which 
the Japanese are famous all the world over ; the 
making of bolts and bars and battleships has not 
prevented the metal-workers from producing exquisite 
work in bronze, so delicate as to resemble the finest 
lace. The manufacture of our vulgar modern mon- 
strosities has been taken up by these people, and they 
can offer them to us at a cheaper rate and of a 
better quality than we can produce ourselves, freight 
included. Japan can produce European work better 
than the Europeans themselves ; but that work has not 
influenced their art one whit — they hate it ; whereas 
Japanese art has permeated and influenced the whole 
of the West. 

All these qualities seem to point one way — Japan 
must eventually become a ruling power. For one 
thing, the struggle for life does not exist there as in 
other countries. The food is simple, and men live 
easily. Then, again, the Japanese are not over-anxious. 
They do not waste their energies. Women do not 

95 



Japan 

fret because they are looking old ; on the contrary, 
it is their ambition to become old, for then they are 
more respected. 

My first experience in Japan, I being a practical 
person and of a practical turn of mind, was rather 
a surprise. I had just arrived at the hotel in Tokio, 
and, observing from my window that there was a 
promise of a sunset, I caught up my paint-box, anxious 
to secure the fleeting effect, and rushed downstairs 
full -tilt, in my haste almost capsizing an old lady 
with a monkey on her shoulder standing at the foot 
of the stairs. Not moving from her position, she 
said, " Young man, I should like to talk to you." 
" Delighted, I am sure," I answered hurriedly : my 
haste to be off, I am afraid, was too apparent just 
then. Not at all daunted, the lady called after me 
some directions for finding her in her room that 
night after dinner, where she would tell me some 
things that would interest me, and walked slowly 
up the stairs without once looking round, her monkey 
on her shoulder. Curiously interested, despite myself, 
in this strange old lady and her monkey, I did visit 
her that evening, and was somewhat startled by her 
greeting of me. " I knew I was going to meet you 
in Japan to-night. I know all about you. You are 
going to paint a series of pictures. You are going 
to exhibit them, and you will make a great success. 
Some day you will paint children — you are fond of 
children. All this I knew in America before ever 
I came here. I saw it all as in a dream." Paralysed, 

96 



EVENING 



Art in Practical Life 

I could only utter the formal words, " Oh, really ! " 
"Ah, you're sceptical! But you are sympathetic too, 
and after I have talked to you for two or three hours 
you will see that I am right," quoth my strange new 
friend, while at the prospect of two or three hours' 
conversation I experienced a distinctly sinking feeling. 
But with the next few words she uttered, the sinking 
feeling vanished, to be superseded by one of deep 
interest. For some years, she told me, she had been 
constantly communing in the spirit with her husband 
and Lord Byron — rival spirits. Her husband was 
jealous of the poet and of her correspondence with 
him, and she showed me a series of letters dictated 
by that great man in the dark — all sorts of beautiful 
letters on all subjects, ranging from tennis to theology. 
I sat there I know not how long listening to this 
wonderful woman ; and also — it may seem foolish — 
I felt strangely comforted and encouraged to hear her 
say so convincingly that I was to make a success, for 
at that period I had never painted a picture, and the 
whole thing was, as it were, an experiment. It was 
many weeks before I could forget that old lady and 
her monkey. All through my travels the memory of 
that monkey's eyes — beady, blinking, never changing — 
followed me, and stimulated me. 

With Tokio and Yokohama I was disappointed. 
I had the privilege of attending the Mikado's garden 
party ; but the pleasure of the really beautiful grounds 
and the cherry-blossom was spoilt by the Western dress 
of the guests and of high personages — a hideous sub- 
7 97 



Japan 

stitute for the Japs' own graceful garments. Yokohama 
I found especially unsympathetic. The bulk of the 
Europeans I met there seemed to be spending half 
their time in abusing Japan and everything Japanese. 
Strange that a colony of such unrefined, uneducated 
people should presume to criticise these artists ! Tokio, 
with its formal dinners and conventionalities, was much 
the same ; and with epithets such as " Crank " and 
" Madman " hurled after me, I fled to Kioto, there to 
lose myself in endless and undreamt-of joys. 

In Japan there are flowers blooming all the year 
round : the country is a veritable paradise of flowers. 
When a certain flower is at its height, whether it be 
the wistaria, the chrysanthemum, or the azalea, that is 
a signal for a national holiday, and, dropping business 
and all such minor considerations, the whole of Japan 
turns out and streams through the parks and through 
the country to picnic in the sunshine, under the flowers. 
I arrived in Japan in the spring, and the country was 
pink with blossom. Infected with the delightful fever 
for blossom -dreaming, I drifted aimlessly along with 
the crowds, drifting only too rapidly into their own 
restful atmosphere, and accustoming myself to the 
delicious theory that life is long with plenty of time for 
everything. And as I sat in the sun among these light- 
hearted people, watching mountains of pink blossom 
under a clear blue sky, it did seem ridiculous to think 
of work and worry. 

Those first few weeks in Japan come back to me as 
something to be remembered. To my untravelled mind 

98 



BLOSSOM OF THE GLEN 



Art in Practical Life 

everything seemed so novel, so quaint, so unexpected. 
Things were large when I expected them to be small, 
and vice versa ; the houses were made of paper ; the 
women were anxious to make themselves look old. I 
was fascinated by the pyramids of children gazing in at 
sweet-stuff shops with their brown, golden, serious faces 
contrasting so oddly with their gaily-coloured dresses 
painted to look like butterflies. Every child I saw I 
felt that I must either pat or give it something. I was 
surprised to see fowls with tails so long that they had 
to be wound up into brown-paper parcels ; the dogs 
that mewed like cats ; miniature trees hundreds of years 
old. I was surprised when I dined out to find the room 
decorated with beautiful ladies in lieu of flowers, a 
delightful substitute. To be taken to the basement 
and handed a net with which I was to catch my own 
carp was also rather a surprise ; but when I was expected 
to eat it as it lay quivering on my plate, I was more 
than surprised — I was roused. Material for pictures 
surrounded me at every step. I wanted to make pictures 
of every pole and signboard that I came across ; and 
the result of this glut of subjects was that I never 
painted a stroke. Night in Japan fascinated me almost 
more than anything — the festoons of lanterns crossing 
from one street to another, yellow-toned with black and 
vermilion lettering ; the gaily- dressed little people 
passing by on their wooden clogs or in rickshas with 
swinging paper lanterns drawn by bronze-faced coolies. 
I shall never forget my first rainy day in Japan. I 
went out in the wet and stood there, hatless but perfectly 

99 



J a p 



an 

happy, watching the innocent shops light up one by 
one, and the forest of yellow oil-paper umbrellas with 
the light shining through looking like circles of gold, 
ever moving and changing in the purple tones of the 
street. 

One of the first things I did on arriving in Japan 
was to hire a servant, and this little man soon became 
my adviser in artistic as well as in mundane matters. 
He took a keen interest in my work, and spent the 
greater part of his spare time in hunting up subjects for 
me — monograms, suggestions for picture -frames, and 
what not — he, like every Jap, was an artist. He never 
said that he liked anything that I ever painted (he was 
far too truthful for that) ; but it was quite obvious that 
he did not, for he could draw infinitely better himself. 
But he helped me a great deal. 

So did the policemen — and the policeman in Japan is 
a perfect treasure. They are all gentlemen of family and 
are very small men, much below the average in height ; 
but they have nearly all learned the art of scientific 
wrestling, and exercise an absolute and tyrannical power 
over the people. Luckily for me, I never made the 
hopeless blunder of attempting to tip them. Altogether 
I found the policeman the most delightful person in the 
world. When I was painting a shop, if a passer-by 
chanced to look in at a window, he would see at a 
glance exactly what I wanted ; and I would find that 
that figure would remain there, looking in at the shop, 
as still as a statue, until I had finished my painting ; 
the policeman meanwhile strutting up and down the 

ioo 



A FAMILY GROUP 



Art in Practical Life 

street, delighted to be of help to an artist, looking 
everywhere but at my work, and directing the entire 
traffic down another street. 

Suddenly there is a fire — there is invariably a 
fire when one arrives in a foreign country, I notice. 
Immediately the policemen begin to plant little bamboo 
sticks round the burning building with twine fixed from 
one stick to another. This is to act as a barrier to keep 
the people off. After a time a crowd gathers, and in 
the swaying of the people their chests sometimes touch 
the string and bow it ; but the thought of breaking 
through that twine never occurs to them. The bold 
little firemen inside the enclosure trying to scare away 
the god of fire by bright clothing, and literally sitting 
on the flames in their light-coloured coats, form a scene 
never to be forgotten. They seem to bear charmed 
lives as they dash among the flames, putting the fire 
out with their hands, and in a very short time too. It 
reminds one of the performance of the fire-eating 
gentlemen at the Aquarium. 

The power of the policemen over the people in 
Japan is extraordinary. Even the Westerners obey 
them. At the treaty ports they often have to deal with 
English sailors, and, although they try their utmost to 
smooth things over, they often have to run men in. 
It is entertaining to see a great blundering sailor, just 
like a bull, plunging to right and left, while the little 
policeman, always courteous and polite, constantly gives 
way, stepping on one side until the time comes when 
the sailor, puffed and worn out, gives a terrific lunge ; 

IOI 



Japan 

the policeman gives him a slight impetus, and the sailor 
sprawls in an ungainly attitude on the ground. He is 
then led off triumphantly by a small piece of string 
attached to his belt behind. 

It was not until I arrived in Osaka, the Venice of 
Japan, that I gave up dreaming and seriously began to 
work. Here was scope indeed ! Osaka is the city of 
furnaces, factories, and commerce, — the centre of the 
modern spirit of feverish activity in manufacturing and 
commercial enterprise. Western ugliness has invaded 
certain quarters ; yet the artistic feeling predominates. 
The Ajikawa is still the Ajikawa of the olden time, and 
on the eastern side of the city is the Kizugawa, into 
which — thanks to the shallowness of the bar — no steamer 
ever intrudes, while the city itself is intersected by a 
vast network of canals and waterways, all teeming with 
junks and barges, and crossed by graceful wooden 
bridges which lend themselves admirably to line. The 
Kizugawa fascinates the painter. Away from the bustle 
of the factories and the shrieking of the whistles, the 
great junks from northern Hakodate or the sunny 
Loochos He sleepily silent. They are the Leviathans 
of their kind. Intermingling with them are innumerable 
barges and fishing-boats, stretching far up the river, 
their masts and cordage seeming one vast spider's web. 
Not a single vessel is painted — from the huge sea-going 
junk to the narrow-prowed barge. Near the water-line 
the wood has taken a silvery tone ; but above, it looks 
in the sunlight like light gold. And the cargoes of 
rice in straw bales, piled high over the bulwarks, are 

102 



THE VENICE OF JAPAN 



Art in Practical Life 

also golden. A steam-launch has in tow half a dozen 
barges, which, with their unpainted woodwork, rice 
bales, and straw-coloured connecting cable, appear 
against the dark water as a knotted golden thread. In 
the endless perspective of junks the golden tone pre- 
dominates ; but it is relieved by the colouring of the 
buildings on the river banks. There is no monotony, 
for no two houses are similar either in tint or in design ; 
and there is no stiffness of line. The builders are all 
artists, to whose instincts repetition would do violence. 
The quaint roofs, although formed in straight lines, 
seem to rise and fall in gentle undulations. There is 
nothing abrupt or rugged ; nothing jars. And the 
colours are as varied as the roofs. In the upper reaches 
of the rivers the scenes never cease to charm. Clusters 
of half a dozen boats forming a mass of decorative 
woodwork, tea-houses with tiny gardens running down 
to the water's edge and gaily-dressed geishas leaning 
over the trellised verandahs, light bridges thrown in 
graceful outline against the purple horizon, — all combine 
to complete a picture as broad as a study by Rembrandt, 
as infinite in detail as a masterpiece by Hobbema. 



103 



AN IRIS GARDEN 



THE GARDENS 



A SUNNY GARDEN 





will 






,^ 




CHAPTER VI 

THE GARDENS 

It is not easy to describe the fascination of a Japanese 
garden. Chiefly it is due to studied neglect of geo- 
metrical design. The toy summer-houses dotted here 
and there, the miniature lakes, and the tiny bridges 
crossing miniature streams, give an air of indescribable 
quaintness. Yet, in spite of the smallness of the 
dimensions, the first impression is one of vastness. 
" Who discovers that nothingness is law — such a one 
hath wisdom," says the old Buddhist text. That is 
the wisdom the Japanese gardener seeks, for he also is 
an artist. There is no one point on which the eye 
fastens, and the absence of any striking feature creates a 
sense of immensity. It is a broad scheme, just as broad 
as a picture by Velasquez would be, and of infinite 
detail. It is only accidentally that one discovers the 
illusion — the triumph of art over space. I saw a dog 
walk over one of the tiny bridges, and it seemed of 
enormous height, so that I was staggered at its bulk 
in proportion to the garden ; yet it was but an animal 
of ordinary size. 

107 



Japan 

A Japanese gardener spends his whole life in studying 
his trade, and just as earnestly and just as comprehen- 
sively as a doctor would study medicine. I was once 
struck by seeing a little man sitting on a box outside 
a silk -store on a bald plot of ground. For three 
consecutive days I saw this little man sitting on the 
same little box, for ever smiling and knocking out the 
ash from his miniature pipe. All day long he sat there, 
never moving, never talking — he seemed to be doing 
nothing but smoking and dreaming. On the third day 
I pointed this little man out to the merchant who 
owned the store, and asked what the little man was 
doing and why he sat there. " He's thinking," said 
the merchant. " Yes ; but why must he think on that 
bald plot of ground ? What is he going to do ? " I 
asked, perplexed. The merchant gazed at me in 
astonishment, mingled with pity. " Don't you know," 
he said, " he is one of our greatest landscape gardeners, 
and for three days he has been thinking out a garden 
for me ? — If you care to come here in a few days," 
he added, " I will show you the drawings for that 
garden all completed." I came in a few days, and I 
was shown the most exquisite set of drawings it has 
ever been my good fortune to behold. What a garden 
it would be ! There were full-grown trees, stepping- 
stones, miniature bridges, ponds of gold-fish — all 
presenting an appearance of vastness, yet in reality 
occupying an area the size of a small room. And not 
only was the garden itself planned out and designed, 
but it was also arranged to form a pattern in relation 

1 08 



AT HORIKIRI 



The Gardens 

to the trees and the houses and the surrounding hills. 
This little old man, without stirring from his box or 
making a single note, had in those three days created 
this garden in his mind's eye, and on returning home 
had sketched out the final arrangement. The merchant 
told me that his garden would be completed in a few 
weeks, with full-grown trees flourishing in it, and 
everything planted — all but one stone, which in all 
probability would be there in a few weeks, while, on 
the other hand, it might not be placed there for years. 
On inquiring as to the reason of this strange delay I 
was told that that one particular stone, though insig- 
nificant and unnoticeable in our eyes, occupies a very 
prominent position, and that upon the proper placing 
and quality of it the beauty and perfection of a Japanese 
garden almost entirely depends. Sometimes hundreds 
and even thousands of dollars are paid for a large stone 
that happens to be rightly proportioned and of the correct 
texture of ruggedness to occupy a certain position in a 
Japanese garden. 

To see the cherry-blossoms of Yoshino, the plum- 
trees in full bloom at Sugata, the wistaria at Uyeno, or 
the iris at Horikiri, the people will travel scores of 
miles. Then, there is the spacious embankment of the 
Sumidagawa, at the part known as Uukojima, celebrated 
for its avenue of cherry-trees. Before the Restoration 
it was the favourite promenade for the daimio and their 
retainers, and very picturesque it must have been to 
see the stately nobles in their gorgeous robes, saluting 
one another with all the grave ceremonial in which the 

109 



Japan 

courtiers delighted. The costumes have vanished ; but 
the ancient residences, with their private waterway 
approaches to the river, remain ; and the avenue is 
still the fashionable promenade. 

But it is the iris gardens at Horikiri seen by night 
that have left an impression which will never fade from 
my mind. We visited the gardens frequently ; but 
it is one particular visit that I remember above all the 
others. Leaving the Hotel Metropole late in the 
afternoon, the ricksha men took us at a rattling pace 
through the city. After an hour's run we found 
ourselves far away from the river in the midst of 
uninviting rice-fields, with a glimpse of the gardens in 
the distance — a blue and white oasis in a waste of 
green. If one visits the gardens in the afternoon the 
changes that the flowers undergo are marvellous. In 
the full warm rays of the sun, the great petals, turning 
back towards their stems, are rich and glowing in every 
shade. Then, as evening comes on and the sunlight 
fades, the deeper purple blooms lose their richness and 
grow shadowy, while the white ones take on an icy 
purity that seems unearthly in its transparency, and 
they shine as with an internal light. Still a little later, 
and with the last rays of daylight, all the darker flowers 
have disappeared, and where a short time ago stood 
a proud bed of royal colour one can see only the 
ghastly heads of the pure white petals looming like 
phantom flowers in the purple night. 

The effect of the picture was heightened by the 
atmospheric colouring. As the silver evening gradually 

no 



IRIS GARDEN 




t&smmUBmml 



The Gardens 

changed to purple night — a purple only seen in Japan 
— the festoons of lanterns which illuminated the 
summer-houses became of one colour with the land- 
scape, and then, as the night darkened to a deeper 
purple, the lights changed to bright orange. It would 
be impossible to put such colours on canvas : the only 
way to represent them would be by precious stones. 
We dined in one of the summer-houses off dainty 
plates served us by little musmes while seated on the 
white mats. The blooms of the iris appeared softly 
luminous, emitting a ghostly light. It is this spiritual 
beauty which makes the flowers such a favourite in 
temple gardens, and inspires the Japanese to poetry. 
On the edge of a tiny lake, approached by a winding 
walk, through an avenue of bamboo trellis-work, was 
a small shed with a quaint roof. In the shed the 
model of a junk was placed. Near it were ink and 
small strips of paper. The junk was designed to receive 
poems on the beauty of the iris and of the garden. 

Nothing disturbs in a Japanese landscape. It is 
the harmonic combination of untouched naturalness 
and high artistic cultivation. The tea-houses owe 
much of their charm to the absence of paint. The 
benches, lintels, the posts, are uncoloured, except by age. 
The white mats and the paper screens act as a foil to the 
bright flashes of the musmes — waiting-girls — who move 
noiselessly through the rooms like gigantic butterflies 
flitting to and fro. The iris blooms are a rich mass 
of colour of blue and white, and the gardener has 
exhausted his art in pruning all the unnecessary growths 

in 



Japan 

without leaving a trace of his handiwork. The ride 
back was delightful. Tokio at night is seen at its best ; 
the river is then more fascinating. Huge junks, with 
a solitary light at the masthead, glide by — fantastic 
shadows in the purple haze. The tea-houses, with their 
festoons of lanterns and orange interiors, in which one 
caught glimpses of singing girls in their brilliant 
dresses, gleamed like golden patches in the cool purple. 
The bridges sparkled with lights ; the shops were 
bright with colour ; and all through the city, to enjoy 
the coolness of the night air, groups of citizens were 
seated in the streets chattering as gaily and as light- 
heartedly as only the Japs can. 



112 



A WISTARIA GARDEN 



FLOWER ARRANGEMENT 



FLOWER-PLACING 



CHAPTER VII 

FLOWER ARRANGEMENT 

One of the chief characteristics of the Japanese, which 
especially distinguishes them from Europeans, is their 
intense fondness for flowers — not the fondness which 
many English people affect, but an instinctive love of 
the beautiful, and a poetical appreciation of symbolism. 
The Japanese nature is artistic in essence, and in no 
more delightful manner is the art of the people expressed 
than in the cultivation of flowers. Flowers to them are 
a source of infinite and unending joy, of which the chief 
pleasure lies in their proper placing and arrangement. 
Every common Japanese workman, every fan-worker or 
metal-worker, has some little flower carefully placed 
beside him at his work ; he loves and prunes and cares 
for it. 

If you dine out with a friend you will be seated, not 
on the right-hand side of the past -middle -age lady 
of the house, but near some beautiful flower. The 
" honoured interior " would never have the presumption 
to seat you next herself. You are her guest, and must 
be made happy by being placed in the near neighbour- 

ii5 



Japan 

hood of the principal and most beautiful object in the 
room, which is invariably the arrangement of flowers. 
And a vase of flowers in a Japanese house is at once a 
picture and a poem, being always in perfect harmony 
with the surroundings. The art of arranging flowers 
is an exact science, in the study of which seven years of 
constant hard work finds a man but fairly proficient. 
In fact, to create a really fine arrangement is just as 
difficult as to paint an equally fine picture. Every leaf 
and every flower has to be drawn and practically 
modelled into form, while even so simple a thing as the 
bending of a twig requires much care and knowledge. 
To become a master in the art of flower-arrangement 
a man must study for at least fourteen years, devoting 
the remainder of his life to perfecting and improving it. 
There are scores of different arrangements that one 
must learn, and volumes upon volumes of designs, 
showing all the most delicate and subtle forms of 
placing which a master, in order to create perfect balance, 
must have at his fingers' ends. These ancient designs 
are so perfect that it is almost impossible to change 
them or to insert any original work into them. Here 
and there, indeed, some great master will make a slight 
variation in the arrangement of a particular flower, and 
in a very short time that variation is trumpeted through- 
out the country and known in all art sections. To a 
Westerner this seems incredible. He affirms that if he 
jumbles a bunch of flowers together in a vase he can 
create a different effect every time. Very probably, 
and he can also strew roses and cut flowers all over his 

116 



Flower Arrangement 

dining-table if he likes ; but he will still be creating 
nothing more than a jumble. If he were to think out 
the arrangement of his table from an artistic point of 
view as a bit of decoration, he would find it impossible 
to produce such a wealth of inartistic variety. "But," 
argues the uninitiated Westerner, " these roses strewn 
carelessly over our tables, and bunches of flowers stuck 
loosely into vases, are far more natural than the single 
stiff bough of blossom of Japanese decoration. Flowers 
grow in Nature carelessly and wildly, and therefore they 
must be arranged to look like that." Now, it is always 
difficult to answer these people, for the dining-table of 
the West begins by being utterly hopeless in decoration 
and in colour. One cannot possibly compare this 
meaningless attire, this independent mass of colour 
forming no pattern, and probably placed upon the table 
by a servant without care or thought, and with an 
utter disregard to form and order, — one cannot compare 
such decoration with the beautiful, scientifically-thought- 
out flower arrangements of Japan. All that one can 
say is that one is art and the other is not. Nature 
grabbed at in this crude Western fashion and stuck into 
a vase is no longer Nature. 

Consummate naturalness is brought about only by 
consummate art, and is not the result of accident. If 
a bough of blossom growing in the midst of other trees 
is taken from Nature and placed in a vase, however 
beautiful it might originally have been, it must necessarily 
appear awkward and out of place. One of the chief 
characteristics of Japanese flower arrangement is its 

117 



Japan 

resemblance to the flowers in a state of nature. A 
bough or a tree in a Japanese room looks exactly like 
a real bit of Nature lifted bodily out of the sunshine 
and its own particular surroundings, and placed there. 
Nature appears to be almost commonplace as compared 
with the work of a great Japanese master in the art of 
flower arrangement, and almost less natural. A master, 
after having received a clear impression of the way a 
certain bough appears in the midst of its background of 
Nature, is capable of taking that single bough and of 
twisting it into broad beautiful lines, one picking up 
with the other in such a way as to convey the same 
impression to you as it did when growing in its own 
sunny garden. 

" But why are there so few flowers in this 
Japanese method of flower decoration ? " complains 
the Westerner. " Why only one branch of blossom 
in a pot ? — why only one ? ' Because you can see 
that one and enjoy it, provided that you have the 
capacity to see at all, which the majority of people 
have not. One beautiful bough or one beautiful 
picture should be ample food for enjoyment to last 
an artist for one whole day. If there were twenty 
beautiful boughs, or twenty beautiful pictures, you 
would look from one to the other and would neces- 
sarily become confused. You would leave that room 
feeling thoroughly unhappy, and with the same sort 
of headache that one gets after spending an afternoon 
in a picture-gallery. To enjoy one of these pictures 
or flowers, and to concentrate one's thoughts upon 

118 



WISTARIA 




X 



Flower Arrangement 

it alone, you would have to frame it between your 
hands, cutting it off and isolating it from the rest. 

This the Japanese do for you. They know that 
you cannot appreciate more than one beautiful object 
at a time, and they see that that one object is perfectly 
placed in relation to its surroundings, so as to give 
rest and enjoyment to the eye. Almost every one in 
Japan, either young or old, is capable of appreciating 
a fine arrangement of flowers, and nearly every Japanese 
woman can practise the art. 

So many minute descriptions have already been 
written of the methods of the masters of flower 
decoration that there is little else to say on that point. 
However, since decoration by flowers has so much 
to do with the art of the country, and is so closely 
connected with the character of the people, I feel 
that I must give a slight description of some of the 
marvellous creations in purple irises, lilies, and pines 
that the greatest master in Tokio once arranged for 
me at my hotel. He arrived early one morning, and 
in great good-humour, evidently feeling that, I being 
an artist, his work would be appreciated and under- 
stood. He carried with him his flowers, tenderly 
wrapped in a damp cloth under one arm, and his 
vases under another. One of his most promising 
pupils, a girl of nineteen, accompanied him, acting 
almost as a servant and evidently worshipping him as 
her master. He began at once to show us a decora- 
tion of lilies and reeds. With the utmost rapidity 
he took out a bunch of slim reeds, pulled them to 

119 



Japan 

different lengths, the large ones at the back, the small 
ones in front, and caressed the whole into a wooden 
prong looking like a clothes-peg, and arranged it in 
a kind of vase made out of a circular section of bamboo. 
An immense amount of care was taken with the hand- 
ling of these reeds, the master drawing back now and 
then in a stooping position with his hands on his knees 
and his eyes bolting out to view his handiwork criti- 
cally. Next he took some lilies with their leaves, and 
arranged them in a metal stand composed of a number 
of divisions looking like cartridge-cases cut off. Every 
leaf was twisted and bent and cut to improve its form. 
The half-open lilies were made to look as though they 
were growing, and were a great favourite with this 
master because of the scope for beautiful curves and 
lines that they allowed. Time after time he would 
take out a leaf or a flower, putting another in its place, 
thereby showing that he had absolute command over 
his subject, and a fixed picture in his mind that he 
was determined to produce at any cost. The ultimate 
result of the decoration was perfect naturalness. I 
never saw lilies growing on the hillside look more 
natural than they did here ; yet each had been twisted 
and bent into a set design laid down by the artist. 
Both reeds and lilies were placed in a wooden tray 
partially lacquered, the unlacquered portion representing 
old worm-eaten wood ; pebbles were placed in the 
bottom of the tray, and the whole was flooded with 
water. Then he began his decoration of irises. He 
took a bundle of iris leaves, cut and trimmed them, 

120 



A FETE DAY 



Flower Arrangement 



washing and drying each leaf separately, and sticking 
them together in groups of twos and threes. With his 
finger and thumb he gently pressed each one down 
the centre, rendering it as pliable as wire. The leaves 
were cut to a point at the base and placed in a 
metal stand with consecutive circles. Then an iris 
bud, with the purple just bursting, was placed in 
position and caressed into bloom. The whole was 
syringed with water and carefully placed in a corner 
of the room. 

I have described these few flower arrangements in 
detail in order to show the exactitude of the work and the 
immense amount of care taken by professors in flower 
arrangement. On this particular occasion I had invited 
some friends to enjoy the professor's masterpieces with 
me, and he had just completed a most exquisite pro- 
duction, by far the best and finest he had achieved 
that day. It was an arrangement of pine with one 
great jutting bough, perfectly balanced — in fact, a 
veritable work of art. The professor was a true 
artist ; he loved his work, and it was all the world 
to him. 

For once he was content, and had just leant back 
to view his work through half-closed eyes when in 
a flash an Oxford straw hat was clapped down right 
on top of it. It was the husband of one of my friends 
just returned from a walk, full of spirits and boisterously 
happy. It was a cruel thing to do ; but he did not 
realise the horror of his act. He saw a bough sticking 
right out of a pot, and it seemed to him a suitable place 

121 









Japan 

to hang his hat on : so he hung it there — that was all. 
The little assistant gave one frightened look at her 
master, and began to pack up the utensils at once ; the 
professor drew himself up in a very dignified way, 
bowed profoundly, and left the hotel. I never saw 
him again, and I knew that I never should — for he 
went away crushed. 



122 



BUTTERFLIES 



THE GEISHA 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE GEISHA 

With all their practical gifts — which, as one of them- 
selves has remarked, will enable them to beat the world 
with the tips of their fingers — and all the power of 
assimilating and adapting to their own purposes the 
best that other nations have to offer them, — the Japanese 
are essentially and beyond all a nation of artists. It 
is not only in the work-shop and the studio, but also 
in the simplest act and detail of daily life, that this 
sense of the decorative oozes unconsciously forth, and 
most of all, and most unconsciously, in the Japanese 
woman — the geisha. 

The raison d'etre of the geisha is to be decorative. 
She delights in her own delightsomeness ; she wants 
frankly to be as charming as nature and art will allow ; 
she wants to be beautiful ; and she honestly and assuredly 
wants me and you and the stranger artists to think her 
beautiful. She wants to please you, and she openly 
sets about pleasing, taking you into her confidence 
(so to speak) as to her methods. She does it with 
the simple joy and sincerity of a child dressing up. 

125 



Japan 

There is no mock shyness, no fan put up, no screen 
drawn, no pathetic struggle to deceive you into belief 
in the reality of an all -too -artificial peach-bloom ; 
there is nothing of the British scheme — no powder- 
puff hidden in a pocket-handkerchief, no little ivory 
box with a looking-glass in the lid, no rouge-tablet 
concealed in a muff to be supplied surreptitiously at 
some propitious moment. The Japanese woman has 
the courage to look upon her face purely as so 
much surface for decoration, a canvas upon which 
to paint a picture ; and she decorates it as one might 
decorate a bit of bare wall. The white is simple 
vegetable white ; the red is pure vermilion toning 
with her kimono. The white makes no effort to blend 
with the natural tone of her neck : it announces itself 
in a clear-cut, knife-edge pattern above the folds of 
the kimono. 

I remember a little story that I once heard (it 
was told me by the designer of the waterworks in 
Tokio) — only a trifling incident ; but it struck me as 
being thoroughly typical of the naive, almost childish 
simplicity of the Japanese woman. It was on the 
day that the waterworks were completed, and the 
high officials and their wives were being escorted over 
the works in trucks, in order that they might see 
and admire this great engineering feat, of which my 
friend, the architect, was very justly proud. There 
were two trucks — one for the men and one for their 
wives. The truck containing the men was wheeled 
up under a shaft where the light came down from 

126 



DAUGHTERS OF THE SUN 



The Geisha 

above, and enabled the officials to look up and admire 
this great work. The men looked up and were duly 
impressed, and altogether the experiment passed off 
successfully. Then the idea was that they should 
move aside so as to allow the women also to enjoy 
the spectacle. No sooner was the truck -load of 
women drawn up beneath the shaft than their faces 
lit up with pleased surprise, and every woman whipped 
out a looking-glass and a rouge -pot and began to 
decorate her face. Not one of them looked up, or 
even attempted to take the slightest notice of the 
waterworks : all they knew was that it afforded them 
just sufficient light by which to decorate themselves, 
and they promptly made use of it. 

The geisha is the educated woman of Japan. She 
is the entertainer, the hostess ; she is highly educated, 
and has a great appreciation of art ; she is also proficient 
in the art of conversation. The geisha begins her 
career at a very early age. When only two or three 
years old she is taught to sing and dance and talk, 
and above all to be able to listen sympathetically, which 
is the greatest art of all. The career of this tiny 
mite is carved out thus early because her mother fore- 
sees that she has the qualities that will develop, and 
the little butterfly child, so gay and so brilliant, 
will become a still more gorgeous butterfly woman. 
Nothing can be too brilliant for the geisha ; she is the 
life and soul of Japan, the merry sparkling side of 
Japanese life ; she must be always gay, always laughing 
and always young, even to the end of her life. But 

127 



Japan 

for the girl who is to become the ordinary domesticated 
wife it is different. Starting life as a bright, light- 
hearted little child, she becomes sadder and sadder in 
colour and in spirits with every passing year. Directly 
she becomes a wife her one ambition is to become old — 
in fact, it is almost a craze with her. She shows it 
in every possible way — in the way she ties her obi, 
the fashion in which she dresses her hair ; everything 
that suggests the advance of the sere and yellow leaf 
she will eagerly adopt. When her husband gives a 
party he calls in the geisha ; she herself, poor dear, 
sits upstairs on a mat and is not allowed to be seen. 
She is called the " honoured interior," and is far too 
precious and refined to figure in public life. But, mind 
you, this little married lady, the " honoured interior," 
does not ignore her personal appearance altogether : she 
too will never miss an opportunity to whip out the 
rouge-pot and mirror that always form part of every 
Japanese woman's attire in order to decorate her face. 
And although to our eyes she appears a nonentity 
as compared with the geisha, her position is in reality 
a very happy one and greatly to be envied. What 
if the geisha entertain her husband's guests ? Hers is 
the greater privilege of attending upon him when he 
returns, tired out from the festivities ; she is as a rare 
jewel set in the background of her home, and the 
"honoured interior" is perfectly content. 

But the idiotic idea so general in the West, that 
the geisha is a silly giggling little girl with a fan, 
must really be corrected, although I can quite under- 

128 



BY THE LIGHT OF THE LANTERN 



The Geisha 

stand how this opinion has been formed. The geisha 
in reality is a little genius, perfectly brilliant as a 
talker, and mistress of the art of dancing. But she 
knows that the Westerner does not appreciate or 
understand her fine classical dancing and singing, 
and she is so refined and so charming that she will 
not allow you to feel that you are ignorant and more 
or less vulgar, but will instantly begin to amuse you in 
some way that she thinks you will enjoy and understand. 
She will perhaps unfold paper and draw rapid character- 
sketches of birds and fish, or dance a sort of spirited 
dance that she feels will entertain you. It is very 
seldom that they will show you their fine classical 
dances ; but if by good fortune you can over-persuade 
them, as I have done, the sight is one that you will 
never forget — the slow, dignified movements, the 
placing of the foot and the hand, the exquisite curves 
and poses of the body, forming a different picture every 
time, — all is a joy and a perfect intellectual treat to the 
artist and to the lover of beautiful things. There is no 
rushing about, no accordion skirt and high kick, nothing 
that in any way resembles the Western dance. 

Sometimes, if she finds that you appreciate the 
fine work, the geisha will give you imitations of the 
dancing on our stage at home, and although it is 
very funny, the coarseness of it strikes you forcibly. 
One never dines out or is entertained in Japan without 
the geisha forming a prominent part of the entertain- 
ment ; in fact, she herself decorates the room where 
you are dining, just as a flower or a picture would 
9 129 



Japan 

decorate our dining-rooms at home, only better. And 
there is nothing more typical of the decorative sense 
innate in the Japanese than the little garden of geisha 
girls, which almost invariably forms the background of 
every tea-house dinner. The dinner itself, with its 
pretty doll -tables, its curious assortment of dainty 
viands set in red lacquer bowls, its quaint formalities, 
and the magnificent ceremonial costumes of its hosts, 
is an artistic scheme, elaborately thought out and pre- 
pared. But when, at the close, the troupe of geishas 
and maikos appears, forming (as it were) a pattern 
of gorgeous tropical flowers, the scene becomes a 
bit of decoration as daring, original, and whimsically 
beautiful as any to be seen in the land of natural 
" placing " and artistic design and effect. The colours 
of kimonos, obis, fans, and head-ornaments blend, con- 
trast, and produce a carefully-arranged harmony, the 
whole converging to a centre of attraction, a grotesque, 
fascinating, exotic figure, the geisha of geishas — that 
vermilion-and-gold girl who especially seizes me. She 
is a bewildering symphony in vermilion, orange, and 
gold. Her kimono is vermilion embroidered in great 
dragons ; her obi is cloth of gold ; her long hanging 
sleeves are lined with orange. Just one little slim slip 
of apple-green appears above the golden fold of the obi 
and accentuates the harmony ; it is the crape cord of 
the knapsack which bulges the loops at the back and 
gives the Japanese curve of grace. The little apple- 
green cord keeps the obi in its place, and is the discord 
which makes the melody. 

130 



A STREET SCENE, KIOTO 



The Geisha 

My vermilion girl's hair is brilliant black with blue 
lights, and shining where it is stiffened and gummed in 
loops and bands till they seem to reflect the gold lacquer 
and coral-tipped pins that bristle round her head. Yes, 
she is like some wonderful fantastical tropical blossom, 
that vermilion geisha -girl, or like some hitherto un- 
known and gorgeous dragon-fly. And she is charming ; 
so sweetly, simply, candidly alluring. Every movement 
and gesture, each rippling laugh, each fan-flutter, each 
wave of her rice-powdered arms from out of their wing- 
like sleeves, is a joyous and naive appeal for admiration 
and sympathy. How impossible to withhold either ! 
The geisha-girl is an artist : I am an artist : we under- 
stand each other. 

My geisha-girl brings out her dainty lacquer-box, 
and under the gaze of all sits down to decorate herself 
with a frank joy in the pleasure she knows she is going 
to give. And she knows too what she is about. She 
knows the value of a tone in a lip. Something suggests 
to her that you, an artist, may have found the vermilion 
lip not quite in harmony with the plan, and she changes 
it to bronze. Three times this evening does my geisha- 
girl change her lip ; she frankly takes it off with a little 
bit of rice-paper, which she rolls up and tucks into the 
folds of her kimono, to be thrown away later, and the 
bronze lip is substituted. By and by it seems to occur 
to her that the bronze lip has become monotonous, 
and she will change it again to vermilion. No doubt 
before the evening is over there will be a series of little 
bits of rice-paper folded away ready to be got rid of 

I3 1 



Japan 

when the bill is paid, the supper eaten, and the festival 
at an end. 

It is through the geisha-girls that there is still a living 
art in Japan at the present day in the designs of the silk 
dresses that they wear. They are so modern, so up-to- 
date, and yet so characteristic of Japan. The women 
are very extravagant in their dress, and some of the 
leading geisha-girls will often go to the length of having 
stencils, with elaborate designs and an immense amount 
of hand-work, specially cut for them, the stencils and 
designs being destroyed when sufficient material for one 
dress has been supplied. For such a unique and costly 
gown the geisha will of course have to pay a fabulous 
sum, and a sum that would astound the average English 
woman of fashion. But then when a geisha orders a 
costume she thinks it out carefully ; she does not go, as 
we do, to a dressmaker, but to an artist. It may be 
that she has a fancy for apple-blossom at sunset, and this 
idea she talks out with the artist who is to draw the 
designs. 

A Japanese woman chooses her costumes, not accord- 
ing to fashion but to some sentiment or other — apple- 
blossom because it is spring-time, peach-blossom for a 
later season, — and many beautiful ideas are thus expressed 
in the gowns of the women of Japan. But although 
the geisha has plenty of latitude in which to display her 
artistic feeling, there are some little details of etiquette 
and fashion that she must adhere to, which show 
themselves in a few details of the Japanese women's 
attire, as, for example, in the thongs of her little wooden 

132 



The Geisha 

shoes and the decoration of her jet-black hair. Not 
only is the kimono of the geisha, its colour and design, 
thought out by the artist, but all the accessories of her 
toilette, such as the obi, the fan, and the ornaments for 
her hair. It is the artist's ambition that she should be 
a picture, perfect in every detail, and the geisha is 
always a picture, beautiful beyond description. 

How different she is from the geisha of fiction, of 
operettas, and of story-books, which is the only geisha 
that the stay-at-home Englishman can know ! That she 
is beautiful to look at all the world agrees ; but quite 
apart from her beauty, or the social position that she 
happens to occupy in Japan, take her as a woman, a 
real woman, stripped of all outward appearances and of 
her own particular nationality — take her as a woman, 
and she will be found as dainty in mind as in appear- 
ance, highly educated, and with a great sense of honour, 
while her moral code would compare favourably with 
others of her sex all the world over. 



133 



BABY AND BABY 




■ 1j' ■ >Lf** ' 



■ <"C ^ I 



CHILDREN 






A JAP IN PLUM-COLOUR 




' .-« > 



CHAPTER IX 

CHILDREN 

A cluster of little Japanese children at play somehow 
suggests to me a grand picture-gallery, a picture-gallery 
of a nation. Every picture is a child upon which has 
been expended the subtle decorative sense of its family 
or neighbours, as expressed in the tint of its dress and 
sash and in the decoration of its little head. It is in 
the children that the national artistic and poetic nature 
of the Japanese people most assuredly finds expression. 
Each little one expresses in its tiny dress some concep- 
tion, some idea or thought, dear to the mother, some 
particular aspect of the national ideals. And just as in 
the West the character of a man can be gauged by the 
set and crease of his trousers, so in Japan are the senti- 
ments and ideals of a mother expressed in the design 
and colouring of her baby's little kimono. Thus, when 
watching a group of children, maybe on a fete day, one 
instinctively compares them with a gallery of pictures, 
each of which is a masterpiece, painted by an artist 
whose individuality is clearly expressed therein. Each 
little picture in this gallery of children is perfect in 

137 



Japan 

itself; yet on closer study it will be found that the 
children are more than mere pictures. They tell us 
of the truths of Japan. 

One child, in the clearness and freshness of its dress, 
seems to embody an expression of that unselfish cheer- 
fulness so characteristic of the Japanese, among whose 
children you can go for days without seeing one cry. 
Another, in the graceful dignity and rich yet severe 
colouring of its costume, tells of that faithful spirit of 
loyalty and pride that has always marked the lives of 
the Japanese. One tiny baby, in the dainty sombreness 
of colour and quiet arrangement of the folds of its little 
kimono, suggests the thoughtful consideration and sweet 
seriousness of the women of Japan ; and another child, 
dressed in a wonderful combination of red and bronze 
relieved by glimpses of white, expresses in its rich glow- 
ing colour, and the purity of the white within, the fire 
of Japanese patriotism. 

But come with me for a walk on any day, in sun or 
in rain, whether on a gala day or on an ordinary day, 
and we shall meet little units in the decorative whole, 
every one of them a colour picture bringing to the 
mind some characteristic of the people. We shall find 
one little one who, to the eye of the artist, flashes like 
a gem, her white kimono, decorated, or rather made 
vivid, as by the hand of a master, with only three or 
four great black crosses, each formed of the crisp 
dexterous drags across the surface of the cloth. Again 
the black is repeated in the carefully-arranged hair, and 
the white in the little wooden shoes ; but all is toned 

138 



SUGAR-WATER STALL 



Children 

and touched by just a little old rose in the ribbon that 
ties her head-dress and the fastening of the thongs at 
her feet. 

Such an art in a people is living ; it has its root in 
national spirit and national character, and must continue 
to foster and strengthen the national ideals. 

The clothing of her children is a matter of great 
and serious consideration to the Japanese mother. 
When a baby is born she gathers together all her 
friends, and they discuss a scheme of decoration for 
the set of miniature dresses that the little one is to 
wear. More care is taken with these baby dresses 
than with those of any grown person, and if the 
parents are rich the sums that are spent on silk crepe 
are sometimes such as would shock any English mother. 
So much has to be taken into consideration with regard 
to the design of a child's dress : it might be cherry- 
blossom or a landscape, according to the month and the 
circumstances amid which the infant was born. The 
colouring of the costume is generally suggestive of the 
ideas and sentiments of the mother. She does not say, 
" I will take this bough of apple-blossom, and it shall be 
the dress of my child," or " I will take Fuji at sunset, 
and the colouring of my baby's dress shall be of old 
rose and white snow." She does not grab at nature in 
this crude way ; but the artistic and poetical feelings 
innate in her unconsciously find expression in the little 
frock. When the mother and her neighbours have 
finally decided upon a scheme of decoration, the designs 
are placed in the hands of some great artist, who carries 

r 39 



Japan 

them out in water-colour drawings on silk, which the 
friends gather together again to examine and generally 
enjoy. Then the designs are handed over to some 
expert stencil-cutter, go through the regular elaborate 
course, and are finally retouched, by the artist himself, 
directly on to the silk. If the parents are rich enough 
the stencils are destroyed, and the dress consequently 
becomes unique. Such a dress will doubtless be an 
exquisite work of art, and very costly. Indeed, a dress 
for a Japanese baby can cost quite as much as a picture 
by a leading Academician, and is of far greater artistic 
value. But no price can be too great, no colouring too 
gorgeous, for the dresses of these little butterflies, the 
children of Japan. The poorest mother will scrape 
together sufficient money, and the father sacrifice one 
half of his daily portion of rice, in order that a child 
may attend a festival in the bright hues befitting its age. 
The younger the child, the more brilliant is its dress. 
You will see a mite, a little baby girl that cannot 
walk or talk, clothed in silk crepe of the most brilliant 
colour possible — rainbow colour, almost prismatic in its 
brilliancy. As the child grows older the colours fade, 
and become duller, until by the time she is a full-grown 
woman they have sobered down almost to Quaker hues 
— except here and there, where some tiny edging of 
colour shows itself. 

The science of deportment occupies quite half the 
time of the Japanese children's lives, and so early are 
they trained that even the baby of three, strapped 
to the back of its sister aged five, will in that 

140 



ADVANCE JAPAN 



Children 

awkward position bow to you and behave with perfect 
propriety and grace. This Japanese baby has already 
gone through a course of severe training in the science 
of deportment. It has been taught how to walk, how 
to kneel down, and how to get up again without dis- 
arranging a single fold of its kimono. After this it 
is necessary that it should learn the correct way to 
wait upon people — how to carry a tray, and how to 
present it gracefully ; while the dainty handing of a 
cup to a guest is of the greatest importance imaginable. 
A gentleman can always tell the character of a girl and 
the class to which she belongs by the way she offers 
him a cup of Saki. And then the children are taught 
that they must always control their feelings — if they 
are sad, never to cry ; if they are happy, to laugh 
quietly, never in a boisterous manner, for that would 
be considered vulgar in the extreme. 

Modesty and reserve are insisted upon in the youth 
of Japan. A girl is taught that she must talk very 
little, but listen sympathetically to the conversation of 
her superiors. If she has a brother, she must look 
up to him as her master, even although he be younger 
than herself. She must give way to him in every 
detail. The baby boy places his tiny foot upon his 
sister's neck, and she is thenceforth his slave. If he 
is sad, her one care must be to make him happy. Her 
ambition is to imitate as nearly as possible the behaviour 
of her mother towards her own lord and master. 

Many attempts have been made by enterprising 
Westerners to " broaden " the minds of the Japanese 

141 



Japan 

girls, and to make them more independent, by establish- 
ing schools for them, where they can be educated on 
purely Western principles ; but these attempts have 
always failed. The women turned out from such estab- 
lishments are always unhappy, and continue to suffer 
for the rest of their lives, because they are disliked and 
resented by all their people, and no man will marry any 
of them. The beautiful side of life seems to have been 
taken from them ; imagination is crushed and spoilt ; 
they are unfitted for the life that every Japanese woman 
must lead. Naturally they are hated by the men, for 
the womanly qualities that are most valuable in a 
Japanese girl are destroyed by this Western " broaden- 
ing " of their minds : they wear high-heeled shoes, put 
nosegays on the table, and are altogether demoralised. 
Sad to say, Western influence is keenly felt within 
the schools which belong to all classes and conditions 
of Japanese children, and one trembles lest gradually 
the simplicity and quaint formality of their bringing-up 
should become hardened and roughened into the system 
which has done so much to spoil the child-life of the 
West. Their own artistic training is perfect ; and 
although Japan is the land of ceremony, and the 
children are brought up with a certain strictness of 
propriety unknown in the less ceremonious West, 
their utter naturalness and absolute freedom from 
seeking after effects present in them a simplicity of 
character which helps to make them the most delightful 
of their kind. A little boy flying a kite is like no 
other boy you have ever seen in England. There 

142 



YOUNG JAPAN 



Children 

is a curious formality and staidness about him and 
his companions which never degenerates into shyness. 

Once I drifted into a country village in search of 
subjects for pictures, and I found to my astonish- 
ment that every living soul there was flying a kite, 
from old men down to babies. It was evidently a 
fete day, dedicated to kites ; all business seemed 
abandoned, and every one either stood or ran about, 
gazing up in the air at the respective toys. There 
were kites of every variety — red kites, yellow kites, 
kites in the shape of fish, teams of fighting kites, 
and sometimes whole battalions of them at war with 
kites of a different colour, attempting to chafe each 
other's strings. It rather surprised me at first to see 
staid old men keenlv interested in so childish an amuse- 
ment ; but in a very short time I too found myself 
running about with the rest, grasping a string and 
watching with the greatest joy imaginable the career 
of a floating thing gorgeously painted, softly rising 
higher and higher in the air, until it mingled among 
the canopy of other kites above my head, becoming 
entangled for a moment, then leaving them and soaring 
up above the common herd, and side by side with a 
monstrous butterfly kite ; then came the chase, the 
fight, and the downfall of one or the other. They 
were all children there, every one of them, from the 
old men downwards ; all care and worry was for 
the time forgotten in the simple joy of flying kites ; 
and I too, in sympathy with the gaiety about me, 
felt bubbling over with pure joy. To see these lovely 

H3 



Japan 

flower-like child faces mingling with the yellow wrinkled 
visages of very old men, all equally happy in a game in 
which age played no part, was an experience never to be 
forgotten. None was too old or too young, and you 
would see mites strapped to the backs of their mothers, 
holding a bit of soiled knotted string in their baby 
fingers, and gazing with their black slit eyes at some 
tiny bit of a crumpled kite floating only a few inches 
away. 

Another game in which both the youth and the age 
of Japan play equal parts is the game of painting sand- 
pictures on the roadside. These sand -pictures are 
often executed by very clever artists ; but I have 
seen little children drawing exquisite pictures in 
coloured sands. Japanese children seem to have 
an instinctive knowledge of drawing and a facility 
in the handling of a paint-brush that is simply extra- 
ordinary. They will begin quite as babies to practise 
the art of painting and drawing, and more especially 
the art of painting sand-pictures. You will see groups 
of little children sitting in the playground of some 
ancient temple, each child with three bags of coloured 
sand and one of white, competing with one another 
as to who shall draw the quaintest and most rapid 
picture. The white sand they will first proceed to 
spread upon the ground in the form of a square, 
cleaning the edges until it resembles a sheet of white 
paper. Then, with a handful of black sand held in 
the chubby fingers, they will draw with the utmost 
rapidity the outline of some grotesque figure of a man 

144 



CHUMS 



Child 



ren 



or an animal, formed out of their own baby imagina- 
tions. Then come the coloured sands, filling in the 
spaces with red, yellow, or blue, according to the taste 
and fancy of the particular child artist. But the most 
extraordinary and most fascinating thing of all is to 
watch the performance of a master in sand -pictures. 
So dexterous and masterly is he that he will dip his 
hand first into a bag of blue sand, and then into one 
of yellow, allowing the separate streams to trickle out 
unmixed ; and then with a slight tremble of the hand 
these streams will be quickly converted into one thin 
stream of bright green, relapsing again into the streams 
of blue and yellow at a moment's notice. A Japanese 
mother will take infinite pains to cultivate the artistic 
propensities of her child, and almost the first lesson 
she teaches it is to appreciate the beauties of nature. 
She will never miss the opportunity of teaching the 
infant to enjoy the cherry-blossom on a sunny day 
in Yueno Park. Hundreds of such little parties are 
to be seen under the trees enjoying the blossom, while 
the mother, seated in the middle of the group, points 
out the many beauties of the scene. She will tell them 
dainty fairy stories — to the boys, brave deeds of 
valour, to strengthen their courage ; to the girls, tales 
of unselfish and honourable wives and mothers. Every 
story has a moral attached to it, and is intended to 
educate and improve the children in one direction or 
another. There is one fairy story which is a universal 
favourite with both mothers and children, and that 
is the story of Momotaro. When seeing a mother 
10 145 



Japan 

talking earnestly to her children, I have always dis- 
covered that it was the same old story, old yet ever 
fresh. It is a curiously simple tale about an old woman 
who goes every day to the river to wash clothes, and 
an old man who goes to the mountain to fetch wood. 
The old woman is always unhappy because she has 
no children, and one day, when she is washing clothes 
in the river, a large pear comes floating down towards 
her. On carrying it home, she hears the cry of a 
child, which appears to come from the inside of the 
pear. She rapidly cuts it in two, and finds to her 
amazement a fine baby sitting in the middle of it, 
which, since it was born in a pear, she afterwards called 
Momotaro. The story then goes on to tell how the 
baby grows up to be a fine healthy lad, who, on 
reaching the age of seventeen, plans an expedition to 
subjugate an island of the devil. A minute description 
is given of the food he takes with him — of the corn 
and rice wrapped in a bamboo leaf — and how on 
his journey he meets with a wasp, a crab, a chestnut, 
and a millstone, who all promise to help him if he 
will give them half of his food. The lad complies, 
and a beautiful description is given of their journey to 
the island of the devil, on which journey a very skilful 
plan is thought out by which to kill him. On arriving 
at the island, they find that the chief of the devils 
is not in his own room. They soon take advantage 
of his absence. The chestnut hops into the ash; the 
millstone mounts on to the roof; the crab hides in 
the washing-pan ; the wasp settles in a corner ; and 

146 




A SUNNY STROLL 



Children 

the lad waits outside. The poor devil comes back, 
and has a terrible time between them all. He goes 
to the fireplace to warm his hands ; the chestnut 
cracks in the fire and burns them ; he rushes to 
the water-pan to cool himself, and the crab bites 
his hand ; he flies to a safe place, and is tormented 
by the wasp ; in an agony of pain he tries to leave 
the room, but the remorseless millstone descends with 
a crash upon his head, and mortally wounds him. 
This story is told to the Japanese children over and 
over again, but is always received with wide-eyed 
delight and excitement. 

I have never seen a child in Japan cry ; nor have 
I ever seen one smacked, for what mother can have 
the heart to touch so dainty a blossom as the child 
flower of this land of flowers ? A group of Japanese 
children is perhaps the prettiest sight on earth, and 
they themselves are works of art, the beauty of which 
can scarcely be imagined. Each head and each piquant 
face is but a field where the ever-present artist can 
exercise his ingenuity and his skill in colour and design. 
Deliberately the child's head and face are treated as 
subjects fit for the most decorative of design, and the 
result, though quaint and formal to the last degree, is 
invariably as pleasing as it is undoubtedly startling and 
original. And the children themselves are no less full 
of interest than their heads and faces are full of paint. 
I once saw a pyramid of children gazing in at a sweet- 
stuff shop. They looked like three children ; but on 
closer inspection I discovered that one was a doll looking 

'47 



Japan 

about the age of a child of two, with its great head 
lolling on the back of its mother, aged three. The 
three-year-old was a boy, strapped to the back of his 
sister aged five. The doll and the sister looked very 
sleepy and tired as they gazed vacantly at the rows 
of tempting pink sugar-water bottles in the sweet-stuff 
shop ; but what arrested my attention was the alert 
and intelligent expression of the three-year-old child 
in the middle, who, just as I took out my notebook 
to sketch the group, put a lighted cigarette between 
his lips, holding it between two chubby fingers, eyeing 
me with the peculiar introspective look of the old 
hand as he both tests the excellence of the tobacco 
and gives himself up to its enjoyment. As I sketched 
him he looked composedly at me out of his big eyes, 
and posed twice without a particle of artificiality — 
once with the cigarette in his mouth, and again as if he 
had just taken it from his lips for a moment while he 
paid attention to me. 

I remember once passing a temple, an ancient Shinto 
temple called " Kamogamo " ; it was a sacred temple 
and very popular, being much frequented for picnics. 
On this particular day there was going on one of the 
two important picnics or festivals of the year ; the 
great ground of the temple and the playground were 
enclosed about with straw ropes on bamboo poles, to 
separate one from another. It was a festival for girls 
under ten, and there were hundreds of children, all with 
their kimonos tucked up, showing their scarlet petti- 
coats, and looking for all the world like a mass of 

148 



THE CHILD AND THE UMBRELLA 



Children 

poppies. The scarlet in the petticoats was universally- 
repeated in neck and hair ; but their kimonos varied 
much, and were of almost every shade and texture 
of Japanese cloth and silk crepe imaginable. There 
were luminous greens, fawns, stripes, golden browns 
shading into lemon -yellows, harmonies in brown and 
violet, and dresses striped and chequered in tones of 
almost every conceivable value. Two rows or armies 
of these girls were placed several yards distant from 
each other in this long emerald-green field ; and in the 
space between them stood two servants, each holding a 
long bamboo pole, fresh and green, being evidently just 
cut down for the fair, and suspending from its top a 
flat shallow drum covered with tissue paper. Presently 
two young men -teachers appeared on the scene carrying 
two baskets of small many-coloured balls, which they 
threw down on the grass between the children and the 
drums. Then a signal was given, and all the girls 
started running down the field at full tilt towards one 
another, pouncing on the balls as they ran, and throw- 
ing them with all their force up at the paper drums. 
The great majority of them missed their aim altogether, 
and flew either above or below the drums, some of the 
mites getting so excited that they threw the balls 
forty or fifty yards in mid air. After a time, when 
a perfect shower of balls had passed through the 
tissue drums, quite demolishing them, a shower of 
coloured papers, miniature lanterns, paper umbrellas, 
and flags came slowly fluttering down among the 
children on to their jet-black bobbing heads, and into 

149 



Japan 

their eager outstretched hands. Never have I seen 
anything more beautiful than these gay, brightly-clad 
people, packed closely together like a cluster of 
flowers in the brilliant sparkling sunshine, with their 
pretty upturned faces watching the softly falling rain 
of coloured toys. I strolled through the temple grounds, 
passed this brilliant stream of colour and lovely laughing 
children, passed the cherry-trees and dainty tea-houses, 
and in a few minutes found myself in a cool grey-green 
forest of bamboo, an academic bamboo grove looking 
like a pillared temple, sunless and silent. It was here 
that the philosophers of old taught and meditated, and 
it seemed a place to meditate in — so quiet, so sombre, 
shut off from the world with its endless lofty pillars of 
grey luminous green — silent, a world apart. 



150 



A LITTLE JAP 




"7 •" 



WORKERS 



A BY-CANAL 



CHAPTER X 

WORKERS 

It was with a view to decorating my newly-built 
London house that I paid a second visit to Japan, 
being convinced that it was possible to handle the 
labour there at a cheaper rate and with finer results 
than in Europe. My experience proved that I was 
right. Before leaving England, however, I was care- 
fully informed by all my friends of the exceedingly 
bad reputation that the Japanese have gained com- 
mercially. I was told that they were treacherous 
and unscrupulous in their dealings, and that I was, 
above all, to beware of the Japanese merchant. As 
it happened, it was through making a friend of one 
particular little Japanese merchant — through concen- 
trating my attention upon him, and studying him 
continually — that I was enabled to gain a real insight 
into the life of the people, and to tear away that 
impenetrable veil which, to the Westerner's eyes, 
always hangs before them. 

"When you get to know a Japanese merchant well, 
a man who has studied our methods, you will find 

153 



Japan 

that he talks openly and frankly about his dealings 
with the European globe-trotter. He will tell you 
that he cheats you and charges you high prices 
because the average Westerner has got no eye. 
The Westerner does not appreciate the really fine and 
beautiful articles that the Japanese soul worships ; 
therefore the merchant gives him what he thinks the 
Westerner wants, and asks the price that he thinks 
the traveller will give. When we first came into 
touch with the Japanese we began by cheating them 
and foisting deceptions upon them, and now they 
simply turn the tables upon us and cheat us to the 
best of their ability. The only difference is that 
the Japanese have more intelligence about wrong done 
them, and their motive for cheating is thus resentingly 
greater. I have had many dealings with the Japanese 
myself, and have always found them just. To be 
sure, I have never come into touch with the treaty- 
port merchants, who have been more or less tainted 
by the Westerner ; but I have come into touch with, 
and studied, the genuine workers of Japan. 

My first object on arriving in Tokio was to find 
some Japanese who would be capable of gathering 
together a series of splendid craftsmen to work for 
me. As luck would have it, I found my man — a 
perfect little genius of a fellow — on the evening of 
my first day in Japan, and in a most unexpected 
manner. I was sitting in the reading-room of the 
hotel, with my plans spread out before me, dreaming 
of the Japanese glories that were to decorate my 

154 



SWINGING ALONG IN THE SUN 



Workers 

London house, when my attention was attracted by- 
seeing a little creature, looking like a monkey with 
a great box on his back, bound suddenly into the 
room, evidently by aid of the manager's foot in 
the adjoining hall. Not in the least perturbed, he 
began to unstrap the box from his back, from 
which he took out curios, and drifted about the 
room trying to sell them to the different globe- 
trotters assembled there. Nothing was too small or 
too trivial for him : he would sell anything. He 
was chivied about, insulted, and abused by every one ; 
yet he received it all with a smiling face. Nothing 
seemed to affect him. He was a typical Japanese, 
with bright slit-like eyes set as close together as any 
monkey's — blinking eyes they were, but so intelligent. 
I could see that he was a keen observer, and that he 
looked upon these wayfarers as so much material of 
prey, by the quiet way in which he selected a man 
with a big pocket, sidling up to him and allowing him- 
self to be insulted, yet always getting the best of the 
bargain in the end. He tried to sell me some very 
bad cloisonne, and he was so clever about it, handling 
his wares in so dexterous a manner, — making his 
twopenny-halfpenny pots appear of priceless value — 
that it occurred to me that this little monkey resem- 
blance might have ideas of his own, and be in some 
small way able to help me. He spoke English a 
little, and I told him to come up to my room that 
night, when I should have something to say to him. 
Glancing at me in a searching way, without asking 

155 



Japan 

a single question or showing the slightest surprise, he 
only said, " I come ! " 

And he came. When I went up to my room after 
dinner, I found him sitting there, or rather squatting 
on a chair, waiting for me, blinking his beady little 
eyes and looking as solemn as an owl. I told him 
all my schemes. I explained that I was a painter, 
thoroughly in sympathy with the Japanese, and that 
I wanted his help to gather together a company of 
workers — fan -workers, metal-workers, and screen- 
workers — in order to furnish a house that I had 
built in London. He grasped my idea in an instant, 
and very soon entered into the spirit of the plan, 
taking an enthusiastic interest in all my schemes. 
Whenever there was anything that needed measuring 
exactly, this little man would run his finger and 
thumb over it in the most dexterous manner possible, 
murmuring to himself, " One inchie, two inchie, three 
inchie, seven-and-a-half inchie," etc. I talked on and 
on, expounding and arranging, until it must have been 
nearly three o'clock in the morning. Japanese people 
are in the habit of going to bed very early, and soon 
my little ally became obviously sleepy, although he 
was far too polite to admit it. Only when midnight 
struck did he beg that he might be allowed to 
smoke a pipe, in order, as he said, " to keep himself 
awake." I gave him permission, and he immediately 
jumped into the fireplace, crouching right down in 
the fender, close up against the red-hot coals, and 
smoked his miniature pipe there. I talked on, and 

156 



A METAL-WORKER 



Workers 

he listened, really interested in everything I said, 
and gazing at me with his little beady eyes, bright 
with interest, yet blinking so rapidly that there was 
almost a mist over them. Then, for the first time, 
I noticed that the little soul was tired, and, feeling 
that it would be cruel to keep him up any longer, I 
bade him good-night and shut the door. 

For almost an hour after he had gone, I sat on 
dreaming and brooding. Then I was suddenly aroused 
by hearing a fumbling noise outside my room, as 
though some one were tapping at the hall door. I 
went out to see who the intruder might be, and 
there I found my little Japanese friend, practically 
asleep, but running his fingers all over the bolted 
door, trying to measure it, and murmuring, " one 
inchie, two inchie, three inchie." From that moment 
I christened him " Inchie," and now all over Japan 
at the present time this little man is known as Mr. 
Inchie. 

After that night Inchie became my constant companion 
and friend. Wherever I went he came. Whether it 
was to theatres, neighbouring towns, metal-workers or 
fan-workers, Inchie always accompanied me, until in the 
end it became a daily habit for him to drift about with 
me in the sunshine, neglecting his business entirely. 
For Inchie was an artist first and a merchant after. 
We visited the temples, where Inchie taught me to 
appreciate the difference between a degenerate Buddha 
and a perfect Buddha, a difference so subtle as to be 
quite indistinguishable to the alien. Gradually, bit by 

157 



Japan 

bit, as I grew to know him better, this little merchant's 
true nature revealed itself to me. I began to see the 
man apart from the merchant, and he proved himself to 
be a great artist. Here in England we should call him 
a distinguished genius, and undoubtedly there are scores 
of equally brilliant men in Japan. 

I have indeed no reason to believe that there are 
any men in Japan who are not brilliant, considering 
that here, the first man I had met, an ordinary little 
merchant in a hotel for Europeans, was an artist. Every 
day we wandered about the streets trying to discover 
the best operators in metal, wood, and bronze to work 
for me ; and in a very short time we had gathered 
together a bevy of excellent associates, each thoroughly 
proficient in his own particular direction. 

Inchie and I talked out our plans during our many 
walks through Yueno Park and down the theatre streets, 
and we came to the conclusion that this Japanese house 
of mine should be a house of flowers. Each room 
should be some individual and beautiful flower — such 
as the peony, the camelia, the cherry-blossom, the 
chrysanthemum, — and, just as a flower begins simply at 
the base, expanding as it reaches the top into a full- 
blown bloom, so my rooms should begin with simple 
one-coloured walls and carpets, becoming richer and 
richer as they mounted up, ending as they reached the 
ceiling in a perfect blaze of detail. 

That was my dream ; but, unlike most dreams, it 
was realised to the full and far beyond my widest 
expectations. I first of all turned my attention towards 

158 



BRONZE-WORKERS 



Workers 

the wood-carvers ; and, discovering that each man had 
his favourite flower, which he manipulated more skilfully 
than any other, I arranged that he should work solely 
on that particular species. Having found three or four 
men who had a special fancy for the peony, I allowed 
them to occupy themselves entirely in the peony room. 
I gave them the exact measurement of the ceiling, 
squaring it out into a certain number of panels, with 
complete measurements of the doors, the frieze, and 
every portion of the room, allowing them to give bent 
to their own artistic instincts as to colour and design. 
These drawings were then handed over to the wood- 
carvers, to be pasted on to wood panels and carved. 
In a very short time every workman in Inchie's store, 
and every artist too, became enthusiastically interested 
in this work that they were undertaking. In fact, it 
was not work to them at all, but one long artistic joy. 
So much rubbishy bric-a-brac has to be made for the 
European market that when a Japanese is allowed to go 
his own way and create self-imagined beautiful things, 
it is an untold personal pleasure to him. 

I never saw a body of men work together so un- 
selfishly as these. The metal-workers in the peony 
room went on in sympathy with the wood -carvers 
from the cherry-blossom hall ; the screen-makers were 
interested in the proceedings of the fan-makers ; and 
the designers were interested in them all. Each indi- 
vidual operative was zealously interested in the success 
of the results as a whole ; and the end is that my house 
now looks like the product of one man, or rather of one 

159 



Japan 

master. It was a revelation to me, after my experience 
of British workmen, to see the way these little Jap 
fellows toiled. How they would talk and plan out 
schemes of decoration for me among themselves, study- 
ing peony flowers, for instance, in some celebrated 
temple garden in order to introduce a new and more 
natural feeling into their wooden ones ; and then the 
joy with which they would think out every little detail, 
flying round to my hotel at all times of the day to 
inform me of some new departure, surprised and pleased 
me greatly. 

These men were all brilliant craftsmen and designers, 
creating work that could not be surpassed in Italy or 
anywhere else for beauty. Yet the bulk of them were 
poorly fed, receiving only sevenpence or eightpence a 
day. Too poor to buy meat, they lived on rice and on 
the heads and tails of fish twice a week, being unable to 
afford that which was between. 

But although the Japanese workman is very poorly 
paid, it must also be remembered that his necessities 
are few and simple. This is roughly the way a work- 
man in Japan lives. He has one meal of rice per day, 
of the poorest quality, which costs him two sen eight 
rim. A sen is a fractional part of a penny, and a rim 
a fractional part of a sen. For a mat to sleep on at 
night he pays one sen fifty rim. Three sen he pays 
for fish or the insides of fowls. Drinking-water costs 
him two rim, while two rim per day pays for the 
priest. The total cost of his daily living thus sums 
up into about five sen three rim. Then, as to be 

1 60 






IN THEATRE STREET 







—**« 



Workers 

buried at the public expense is considered a deep 
disgrace, forty sen is always put on one side for the 
purchase of a coffin, seventy-five sen if the gentleman 
wishes to be cremated, twenty sen for refreshments 
for mourners, five rim for flowers, three sen for the 
fees of the two priests, while, to economise, a Japanese 
of the lower grade will generally make use of friends 
as bearers. 

Apropos of the absurdly small price at which a man 
can live in Japan, I am reminded of an experience in 
Kioto. I was walking down the theatre streets one 
day with a Japanese friend, and we stopped in front 
of a little stall full of very dainty toys. There were 
thousands of toys — miniature kitchen utensils exquisitely 
carved in wood, small pots and pans and dishes, all 
bound with lacquer and beautifully finished, such as 
would delight the heart of every housewife of my 
acquaintance. I asked the stall-holder, a little stolid 
old man, through the interpretation of my friend, how 
much he would sell his entire stock for. His excite- 
ment was intense, and my friend told me that my 
simple question had had the effect of an avalanche 
upon this stolid little toy-seller, and that he was quite 
unable to grasp my meaning, so startling and gigantic 
did the transaction seem to him. After a great deal 
of gesticulation, and much flicking of the beads on 
his counting machine, the little man came to the con- 
clusion that his entire stock would be worth two yen 
thirty sen. This ridiculous price quite took my breath 
away, and I immediately said that I would buy the 
ii 161 



Japan 

lot. Then there was another commotion : the little 
man was thoroughly upset, and could not understand 
what I meant. In the end I made him carry away his 
stall bodily and follow me with it to my hotel. I 
paid him the money, and he quickly disappeared. 
" You won't see that little gentleman in theatre street 
again in a hurry," my friend said : " he will be living 
in luxury now for a week or more on that two dollar 
thirty sen, and he certainly won't dream of doing any 
more work until he has spent the lot." Sure enough, 
I never saw the stolid toy-seller again during the whole 
of my stay in Kioto, which stretched over more than 
a month. But although the coolie and the workman 
in Japan live on next to nothing, the rich man spends 
very lavishly. If he entertains you, he gives you a 
dinner which, although you seldom appreciate its 
splendid qualities (for it does not appeal to the Western 
palate), is, from the Japanese standpoint, truly regal. 
There will be four or five different kinds of fish, 
some of which will be specimens of great value ; and a 
dinner given at a Japanese tea-house by a merchant 
to a European friend would cost more than the most 
expensive dinner it is possible to procure at the Carlton 
or at the Savoy. 

My men flourished on the heads and tails of fish, 
and did splendid service. Day by day the decorations 
for my house grew, as one worker after another was 
added to the little band. One man recommended 
another, and gradually the number increased, until at 
last there were as many as seventy working for me. 

162 



TOYS 




7 



m H»jf» 




Workers 

Inchie was my help, my interpreter, my foreman. At 
first there were many difficulties in the way, for Inchie's 
knowledge of English was limited, and my know- 
ledge of Japanese was none at all. It thus arose 
that the only method of making him understand me 
was pantomime. One day, while discussing a certain 
measurement, we became so involved that I was deter- 
mined to demonstrate my meaning. So I borrowed 
the carpenter's tools and constructed a little model 
of the house, with its different rooms, showing how 
the carved ceilings and friezes should be placed. Inchie 
was astounded that I should have so great a knowledge 
of his own particular work of carpentry, and respected 
me the more accordingly. 

My one great obstacle with the men was in per- 
suading them to make several things alike. They were 
all artists and hated repeating themselves, and with- 
out rhyme or reason I would suddenly find that they 
had made a red lacquer door twice the size of its 
fellow by way of variety. When I first employed 
them I made the grave mistake with my workers of 
ordering large quantities at a time of required materials. 
I actually ordered a hundred electric -light fittings — 
fairy-like lamps daintily wrought in bronze, of which 
they had made me a model — but they refused me point- 
blank, and the only way to get them at all was by 
asking a dozen at a time, and by arranging that each 
dozen should be varied in some slight respect. It was 
the same with my picture frames. They were to be 
a combination of wood and silk, and when I told the 

163 



Japan 

master bronze -worker to make me two hundred of 
them for my next exhibition in London, his face 
clouded over ; he was thoroughly displeased. " No 
can make," he said decisively : " there is berry much 
difficulty. Much it cost to make ; I must get big 
shops to do that ; I no likee." The little man was 
quite discouraged, and I was only able to procure my 
frames by degrees. 

Now, in England it would be quite the reverse — the 
larger the order, the more contented the merchant ; but 
in Japan everything is made by hand. The men take 
an artistic interest in the work. They hate repeating 
themselves ; and in all the panels designed for my carved 
ceilings there were not two alike, although the entire 
design formed a complete whole. Why in the world 
we do not use Oriental labour in Europe is a marvel 
to me. 

Nothing that these Japanese workmen made for me 
at the rate of sevenpence or eightpence a day can be 
approached in London for love or money. I had some 
gold screens made for me in Japan. They were very 
beautiful, and were made of gold on silk varnished over 
and lacquered, with apple-green and vermilion silk 
borders made from the linings of old dancing dresses. 
These screens were so brilliant that they were like gold 
mirrors in which a lady might see her reflection just 
as accurately as in any Parisian cheval glass. In the 
passage to England one of the screens became slightly 
damaged. I was greatly distressed, and took it to a 
celebrated firm of house-decorators to have it repaired. 

164 



THE CARPENTER 



Workers 

They undertook the task very confidently ; but directly 
they attempted to match the gold they found that it 
was impossible to approach to anything like the brilliancy 
of its surface, although every conceivable method was 
attempted. They tried putting on gold and then bur- 
nishing and varnishing it over to imitate the surface of 
the lacquer. The result was that, to the present day, 
that screen stands in my hall with the same dull, sullied 
patch in the middle of it, a silent testimony to the 
inferiority of the British house-decorator as compared 
with his Japanese contemporary. 

Little Inchie and I, as I have said, soon became great 
friends. He followed me about wherever I went, and 
I often lingered in his store, watching him sell curios to 
English people and British merchants from Kiobe. It 
was often a revelation to observe the subtlety of the 
man and the masterly way in which he handled these 
inquiring visitors. He seemed to divine their inner- 
most thoughts, and to know at a glance exactly what 
they wanted, and the prices that they would be likely 
to pay. After a time I learnt the price of nearly every 
curio in his store. There was never a fixed value for 
anything : Inchie was always led by his customer. 
Perhaps an American and his wife would come in, the 
man saying nothing, the wife remarking on everything. 
It was, they said, all " beautiful." I noticed that little 
Inchie was not at all enthusiastic, merely answering their 
questions, but not attempting to sell. He would not 
waste an ounce of energy on them, and after a time 
they would sweep out of the place, the lady gushing to 

165 



Japan 

the last moment and saying how beautiful and exquisite 
everything was. Directly they had gone I would ask 
Inchie why he had not worked harder to try and sell 
them something. " Gentleman and lady not got big 
pocket," he would say. How in the world he knew 
that they had but little money puzzled me. " Lady 
berry much talk — American lady always berry much 
talk. She say ' This curio number one,' but never buy. 
English daimio lady come to my store no berry much 
talk ; English gentleman no big pocket. When she 
leave my store I say, ' Me presentie you.' " What little 
Inchie means by this is that he feels that this English 
lady is refined and really admires his beautiful things, 
but cannot afford to buy them. He appreciates her 
delicacy, and, in his quaint pidgeon English, begs to be 
allowed the privilege of giving her this little inexpensive 
trifle to take away. 

Very often, when I was spending a morning in 
Inchie's little curio store, a Kiobe merchant would drop 
in to buy — a pompous fellow and burly, asking the price 
of everything he saw. " How much is this ? and how 
much is that?' : he would say, and "What do you 
suppose you'd charge for that ? " Inchie would look 
up at the merchant and blink with almost a scared 
expression, so meek was it. The merchant, like the 
great bully that he was, feeling satisfied that he was 
cowing the little man, would pick up a piece of ivory 
and say, "How much?' "Four dollars," answers 
Inchie. " Very dear," replies the merchant sternly. 
Then Inchie would pick up another piece of ivory, 

1 66 



MAKING UP ACCOUNTS 



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Japan 

would give me a little lecture on the absurdity of 
Westerners coming to Japan expecting to buy really 
fine old curios and pictures at a small price, when no 
Japanese would part with them for any consideration. 
"A man," he said, "will come from your country 
who thinks he understands Japan because he has read 
some books about it, and has seen some examples of 
bad art in England. That man has no eyes — he can't 
see the really beautiful things. He comes to buy the 
old kakemono. He won't buy the new kakemono by 
the good man that lives now. He no understand if 
it good or bad ; but it must be old. Well, we make 
him the old one ; " and here Inchie gave me an exact 
description of how they make the old kakemonos. 
They first begin by making the paper look old, and 
every producer has his several methods of bringing 
about age. This is how Inchie does it. He has 
eight various stains in eight separate baths, in which 
he puts his paper, holding the two opposite corners 
and dashing it from one bath to another in one quick, 
dexterous sweep. Then the paper is left to dry, and 
out of about one hundred sheets stained in this way, 
in all probability only a dozen will be found sufficiently 
perfect to deceive the buyer. That is the beginning 
of the manufacture of an imitation old kakemono to 
be sold to the European connoisseur for hundreds of 
dollars, afterwards to find its resting-place in some 
celebrated museum. 

What chance has a European against a genius like 
this ? and how can he detect deception in objects that 

168 



FINISHING TOUCHES 




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Workers 

have been the result of such minute care and considera- 
tion ? The Japanese can imitate postage stamps so 
accurately that the only hope of discovering a fraud 
lies in analysing the gum at the back of a stamp. 
When we stain paper in coffee or beer to give it the 
effect of age, we consider that we have gone far in 
the art of imposition ; but in this direction, as in 
many others, we are mere babies compared with the 
Japanese. 

"But then, Inchie," I said, in reply to his statement 
that it was child's play to deceive the Westerner, " you 
too are sometimes deceived by us. I know of a gentle- 
man in England who brought over to Japan a large 
collection of modern porcelain of English manufacture, 
and by clever handling he imposed the whole lot 
on an artist at Osaka in exchange for some rare old 
Satsuma." Then I enlarged on the hardship of the 
story. I explained how the Englishman had persuaded 
the Osaka painter to give up all the rare old Satsuma 
that he had collected during the course of a lifetime in 
exchange for this valueless English porcelain, remark- 
ing that it was wrong and almost cruel to take such a 
mean advantage of the poor Osaka merchant. "And 
what do you say to that for a clever fraud, Inchie?' 
I asked. Inchie only held his sides and laughed. At 
last he said, " Oh, he berry number one clever man, that 
at Osaka"; for, it seemed, he knew all about the 
Englishman and his porcelain, and also about the 
Satsuma. The painter, indeed, was known all over 
Japan by his clever imitations of old Satsuma, and it 

169 



Japan 

was also generally known that he had given this 
English gentleman a collection of imitations that he 
had painted himself in exchange for the English 
porcelain, which was interesting to him to study. 
The person to be pitied in Inchie's estimation was 
the biter bit ; and he was " number one sorry for 
that Englishman." 

Whenever any one fresh arrived in Tokio — young, 
old, pretty, or plain — I always sent him or her to 
Inchie's store to buy curios. Such streams of people 
besieged him, all so different and some so quaint, that, 
although they were good for trade, Inchie was very 
uncertain as to whether they were good for me, and 
was anxious to have the matter cleared up. " You have 
many friends," he would say, eyeing me suspiciously. 

At length the crisis was reached which broke down 
the barriers of Inchie's reserve and thoroughly upset 
him, in the shape of a fair bulbous woman, who was a 
terror ! I was sitting in the reading-room of the hotel 
one day, believing that I was alone, when a twangy 
voice broke in upon the silence. " Just fancy, he shot 
himself for love of me," mentioning a name in Yoko- 
hama. " Really," I observed, feeling embarrassed (he 
must have been mad, I thought). " Yes ; he blew his 
brains out. Have a drink ? ' she went on, in an 
exuberance of generosity. I said, " I think not." She 
replied that if I would not she would, and she did. 
She wanted to buy curios. I at once suggested Inchie, 
which was a happy inspiration. Inchie came round, 
and I left them in the reading-room together discussing 

170 



A BACK CANAL, OSAKA 



Workers 

cloisonne umbrella handles. My companion was lost 
to me for three full days, being wholly occupied with 
the fair visitant. He turned up at last, but in a state 
of fever, his eyes sparkling and blinking indignantly. 
He handed me a letter that he had just written to his 
latest customer, my friend the bulbous fair, who had 
left for Shanghai that day. " You order me much 
porcelain ; you order me many curios ; I no can send. 
I think you better go porcelain Yokohama. Much 
cheaper you get Yokohama, more number one," 
Inchie's letter ran. " Yes ; but, Inchie," I remonstrated, 
" why won't you serve her ? She's a good customer 
for you." He was violent with rage. " I no like the 
lady," he said ; " she no daimio lady. Tea-house lady, 
I think, with tea-coloured hair. She received me with 
not a proper dress on ; she smoke and drink. I no 
want to serve lady like that. She no friend of yours?" 
he added, eagerly looking into my face with his piercing 
little eyes. " No, no, Inchie ! of course not," I replied, 
for I wasn't going to claim her. " Ah, I thought 
she no friend of yours," and Inchie smiled, while I 
felt that I was respected once more and entered into 
his good graces — it turned out for ever. 

" Now, Inchie," I said to him one day, " I want to 
get a good porcelain man, the best in Tokio. Can you 
manage it ? " There was nothing, so far as I knew, that 
Inchie could not manage, so that in a very short time 
he had found a little man, a pupil of the most eminent 
porcelain maker in Tokio, also celebrated for his re- 
markable glazes, who had just started a business of his 

171 



Japan 

own. We drove round to his store to ask him if he 
v/ould undertake the painting of a dinner-service, and 
do other things for me. He was a young man, this 
particular painter, but with the face of a very old one, 
careworn and haggard, quite an enthusiast, full of 
interest in his art, and a craftsman of the highest order. 
When he found that I too was in the same ranks, his 
sympathies were aroused, and he devoted a whole 
month solely to the firing and painting of my porcelain. 
After a time I began to understand the man and his 
processes. He brought out little bits of choice Chinese- 
blue porcelain to show me. Whenever there was to 
be a three -days' firing he would come round to my 
hotel and inform me of it. Altogether he developed 
into quite a friend, almost to the dethronement of 
Inchie. He allowed me to sit among the men while 
they worked, and, seeing how interested I was, they 
gave me some clay to model and paint. I ended by 
painting a whole dinner-service in blue and white. It 
took me a week to do ; but it was perhaps one of the 
most delightful experiences I have ever had, and I can 
safely say that I have never worked in a more congenial 
atmosphere than when sitting on a mat in that little 
porcelain shop surrounded by those twelve little artists. 
I shall never forget the anxious moments when my 
products were being fired. Sometimes I have gone on 
for twelve or fourteen hours, eating and resting with 
the men, taking my turn at keeping the furnace alight, 
and hanging about after the kilns had cooled to see my 
valuable porcelain dug out. 

172 



BRONZE-CLEANING 



Workers 

Nothing can be more exciting than the first peep at 
porcelain after it has been fired. A mass of dead heavy- 
looking clay is put into the furnace and fired ; you 
peep at it after some hours, and find, to your surprise, 
a rare paradise of glazed white and blue, so brilliant 
and sparkling that it seems almost impossible to have 
been made by mortal hands. But then, of course, it is 
not always so delightful ; there are sometimes vexing 
surprises awaiting you as you open the oven door. 
Occasionally you will peep in and see a group of vases 
looking like drunken men lolling against one another 
in a disreputable manner, and lurching over at all 
angles. Surrounded by a series of failures such as these, 
the finest work is almost invariably found. Although 
the vases have all been painted by the same hand and 
fired in the same kiln, only one will be perfect, while 
the rest are worthless. This is probably brought about 
by some subtle influence to be found in the placing of 
the vase in the kiln. There is, however, a great deal of 
uncertainty in such operations, and it is almost im- 
possible to foretell the fate of any piece of ware after it 
has been set in the firing kiln. 

Inchie and I spent much of our time with the bronze- 
workers, and it amused me to see these artists carrying 
out designs for the European market, while to hear 
their comments upon the crude productions of English- 
men was sometimes very funny indeed. 

The men who were thus engaged were at the same 
time carrying out exquisite work for me. They com- 
plained that the European market insisted upon every- 

!/3 



Japan 

thing being over-elaborated and very showy, and at the 
same time very old. This combination is quite im- 
possible. The old Japanese bronze work was always 
very simple in design, depending for its beauty, not 
upon the flowery decorations surrounding it, but upon 
the exquisite proportions of the piece itself. To create 
the aged appearance necessary in the eyes of the faddy 
European, the bronzes have to be buried in the earth 
— in a special kind of earth — for a few days ; after 
which they are dug up and sold to connoisseurs and 
English people, who are by way of understanding works 
of art, for fabulous sums. 

I had occasion to employ many embroiderers ; and 
here, as in every other branch of Japanese art work, I 
received a series of " eye-openers." Hitherto I had 
been envious of the many fine old bits of embroidery 
and temple hangings shown me by the different globe- 
trotters staying at the hotel. They had all come upon 
their treasures in some lucky and unexpected manner. 
By much good fortune every man had secured his own 
special piece of embroidery, and each by clever manipula- 
tion had outwitted the dealer from whom he had 
managed to wrest this one old temple hanging. But 
when I went to headquarters, and began to employ the 
men who actually made the fabric, my envy vanished. 
I soon found that none of these coveted treasures was 
old at all. Such large pieces of embroidery are not 
used in temples, nor have they ever been ; they are 
quite modern introductions, and have been brought 
about simply to attract and make money out of the 

J 74 



STENCIL-MAKERS 





MMMBMH 



Workers 

credulous strangers. I have spent hour after hour with 
the embroiderers, watching them manipulate old temple 
hangings, and have seen them when the task was over 
wash on gold stains with base metal. Here and there 
a few little touches would be of real gold, and it was 
all done so cleverly that none but a Jap could possibly 
detect that they were modern. 

It is almost a depressing sight to watch these 
embroiderers at work — so different are they from the 
happy boisterous metal-workers talking and laughing 
amid the clanging of their little hammers. They are 
sad and silent. You will be in a roomful of these 
people for perhaps a whole morning, and not one of 
them will utter a word. They work on and on, with 
heads bent down, picking up thread after thread of the 
one piece of embroidery that they have been constantly 
working on for months, or perhaps for years. Never 
a word nor a smile ; each peering into his own special 
work with painful red eyes, on which are large bone- 
rimmed spectacles. They all, as a rule, lose their sight 
early in thus poring incessantly over this difficult and 
dainty work. 

I ordered several pieces of cotton crepe of a certain 
design that I had drawn myself, and it was during the 
execution of this commission that I was brought into 
touch with the stencil-workers and dyers of the country. 
Stencil-cutting is one of the most beautiful arts imagin- 
able. To see the stencil - workers cutting fantastic 
designs from the hard polished cardboard beneath their 
instruments — so delicate that it is like the tracery of a 

175 



Japan 

spider's web in its tenuity — is a sight that one never 
forgets. Some of the designs are so cobweb-like that 
single human hairs are used in parts to keep them from 
breaking to pieces. 

Dyeing is also an art that is brought to a high 
degree of perfection in Japan. Sometimes an elaborate 
design will need such a large number of plates and 
colours, as well as finishing touches by the hand of 
the operator, that in the end it looks almost like a 
water-colour, so closely do the colours mingle one with 
another. 

Then there were the carpenters, and here a whole 
series of surprises awaited me. For example, I found 
that the teeth of their saws were set in what may be 
called the opposite direction, and that therefore, when 
a man pulled his instrument towards him, it cut the 
wood, rather than when he pushed. In this, as in 
everything else, the Japanese are perfectly right. One 
always has more strength to pull than to push, and 
with this method you are enabled to use saws made 
of such thin metal that if their teeth were set in the 
opposite direction they must needs cockle and break. 
When a carpenter wants to plane some tiny piece of 
wood, perhaps a portion of a miniature doll's house, 
he does not run a small plane over it, as we do, but 
uses a large heavy one, very sharp, and turned upside- 
down. In this way very delicate work can be achieved. 

All the Japanese tools are designed with a view 
to their special fitness. The chisels work in a totally 
different way from that of our chisels, and lend them- 

176 



CARPENTERS AT WORK 



Workers 

selves more readily to delicate work. As to their little 
wood-carving tools, they are perfect joys ! I shall never 
forget the expressions on the faces of my British work- 
men as they unpacked the cases of goods that arrived 
from Japan, and came across saws as thin as tissue 
paper with their teeth set the wrong way ; tiny chisels 
that almost broke as they handled them ; hammers the 
size of a lady's hat -pin. My foreman's face was a 
study of disgusted contempt. " Now, how can a man 
turn out decent work with tools like that ? ' he 
exclaimed, looking round appealingly. And it did 
seem impossible. But not one of them complained 
when they came across the actual work accomplished by 
these ridiculously small instruments. The carpenters 
were loud in their admiration for the wood-carving, 
and the foreman merely sniffed. He knew that he 
himself could not approach it. And this was soon 
clearly proved, for if ever my hands tried to do a bit 
of patching it was always a failure. All their joining 
was as child's play when compared with this Japanese 
triumph. 

There was a man in Osaka, a perfect genius in wood- 
carving — the king of carpenters. People journeyed 
from long distances to pay their respects to him, and 
he was the most independent person I ever saw in 
my life. He never dreamt of undertaking service 
for people unless they appreciated it and understood 
its value. Very rich Americans have tried to persuade 
him to engage for them ; but, as he always demanded 
that would-be purchasers should be capable of appre- 

12 177 



Japan 

dating his work as that of an accomplished artist, they 
rarely ever succeeded. Nearly all this man's work is 
done for his own people at a very low price, and 
Japanese wood-carvers are continually taking pilgrimages 
to see him and to buy specimens of his productions. 
He always demands to know what is going to become 
of them, and where they are going to be placed, before 
consenting to part with them. I had the wit not to 
ask him to sell anything to me, nor to execute anything 
for me, but simply admired his work as that of a unique 
artist. 

Most prominent among the toilers of Japan are 
the workers in lacquer, clean and dainty beyond de- 
scription, with whom a great portion of my time was 
taken up. The climate of the country is exactly suited 
to the making of lacquer, being sufficiently damp. The 
process is unusually elaborate, and is a tedious matter 
of painting on a very large number of coats of lacquer, 
rubbing them down always, and allowing them to dry. 
When we think of lacquer here in England, we think of 
it in connection with our tea-trays and like cheap goods 
which we complain of as being made of bad material 
that chips and breaks and becomes useless in a dis- 
tressingly short space of time. " The Japanese have 
lost the art of creating the fine old lacquer that they 
used formerly," we say. But it is not so at all ; it 
is purely a question of time. If the Japanese were 
allowed sufficient leisure, and were not rushed on so by 
the requirements of the European market, they would 
be able to turn out just as fine and just as durable 

178 



A SIGN-PAINTER S 



Workers 

lacquer as they did in the days when they worked for 
the love of their work alone for purchase by their 
fellow-countrymen. Practical proof of this can be 
found in the fact that all the doors in my London 
house, which are composed of the best lacquer, twenty 
or thirty coats thick, and have been in constant use for 
years, are still in perfect condition, and will be two 
hundred years hence. One has no idea before going 
to Japan of the extensive range of colours in the way 
of greens, blues, and reds that there is in lacquer, for 
most of the colours are entirely unknown in the West. 
There is undoubtedly no surface in the world that is 
as clear and as brilliant as lacquer, and I have often 
thought how advantageous it would be if one could 
only lacquer pictures over instead of varnishing them ; 
it would give to the poorest work a brilliancy and 
crispness that would be simply invaluable. But this 
brilliant surface is only brought about by excessive care 
and cleanliness in its preparation — indeed, it needs 
almost as much attention as the making of a collotype 
plate. 

I was anxious to get some really good cloisonne 
workers to make some things for me, and by very 
good luck I hit upon a man who had just discovered 
an entirely new method of handling gold. Coming 
across one of his samples at an exhibition in Tokio, I 
ferreted him out and persuaded him to engage for me. 
His cloisonne, unlike the ordinary slate-grey work that 
one must needs peer closely into before discovering its 
fine qualities, was bold in design, with flower patterns 

179 



Japan 

of cherry-blossom just traceable through a fine lace- 
work of gold, and it looked like a brilliant rainbow- 
hued bubble. One is much inclined to fancy that 
cloisonne vases with elaborate designs must necessarily 
be expensive. That, however, is not the case. There 
are technical obstacles connected with making broad 
sweeps of colour in cloisonne that render simple designs 
much more expensive. Japan is the only place 
in the world that is capable of producing cloisonne, 
for the patience and skill required would overtax the 
workers of any other country, and such an attempt 
would necessarily end in failure. A cloisonne shop is 
every bit as depressing as the embroidery works. You 
will see men picking up on the end of their tiny instru- 
ments gold wire, which is so microscopic as to be like 
a grain of dust, and almost as invisible. This tiny 
morsel has to be placed on the metal vase and fixed there. 
Talking of the delicate and exquisite tools used 
by cloisonne workers reminds me of tools that are 
just as delicate, but used for quite another purpose 
— namely, those which the Japanese dentists handle 
so dexterously. However, the stock-in-trade of a 
Japanese dentist chiefly consists of the proper use of 
his finger and thumb. The most strongly-rooted tooth 
invariably gives way to this instrument. A Japanese 
dentist has only to apply his fingers to a tooth, and out 
that tooth comes on the instant. It is sometimes very 
amusing to see a group of dentists' assistants, all mere 
children, practising their trade by endeavouring to pull 
nails out of a board, beginning with tin tacks and ending 

180 



A CLOISONNE WORKER 



Workers 

with nails which are more firmly rooted than the real 
teeth themselves. 

When I had gathered my team together by the help 
of my right-hand ally, Inchie, after having chosen the 
best of them from every branch of art, they continued 
to go on well and assiduously, and the decorations of 
my house were in full swing, when suddenly there was 
a break, a distinct break. I went round to the store 
early one lovely morning in May, as was my habit, and 
found, to my surprise, that the whole place was empty. 
Not a metal-worker or carpenter was to be seen. They 
had all mysteriously disappeared — where? To view 
the cherry-blossom ! Inchie also, whom I had relied 
upon as a good steady colleague, had, on the first oppor- 
tunity, and without any warning, drifted away into the 
open air with the whole band to view the blossom. The 
Japanese workmen, who are skilled, and want examples 
from Nature, evidently adhere to the principle that " all 
work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and so, whether 
I liked it or not, when such a glorious day had presented 
itself, they were not going to miss the opportunity of 
enjoying it. It was a holiday, or rather the sunshine had 
declared it to be a holiday, and all Japan, rich and poor, 
employers and employed, had turned out to picnic in 
the parks, and feast their eyes upon the cherry-blossom. 
So universal was the holiday, and so persistently did 
Inchie implore that I should join them, that I soon 
found myself sitting under the trees in Yueno Park, 
surrounded by my deserters, enjoying things as well 
as any one of them there. 

181 



Japan 



It was on this day, out of the pure joy of the idea, 
that Inchie proposed to give me a real Japanese dinner, 
and at the same time show me some of the fine old 
classical dances of Japan. I remember that night so 
well ! Inchie invited three other Japanese friends, and 
we all went down into the basement with rod and line, 
or, to be exact, with a net, to catch our own fish for 
dinner. It was to me novel sport chasing those lazy 
old goldfish round the tank. I secured a monster, 
which beat Inchie's out and out for size. Inchie was in 
splendid form on this occasion ; it was a field-night for 
him, and he was quite at his best. He was an enormous 
eater ; he ate anything you chose to give him, and he 
enjoyed the dinner that followed our half-hour spent 
below stairs, I must confess, far more than I did. For 
although the repast was of the very best quality, it was 
after all Japanese, which statement speaks for itself, 
as every one knows that Japanese food does not by 
any means commend itself to the British palate. There 
was our just-caught fish cooked with bamboo, meat of 
different sorts, and many varieties in the soup character, 
some of which were not bad. As for the Saki, it tasted 
like bad sherry ; but it had a most exhilarating effect 
on Inchie, and in a very short time produced in him a 
most natural and joyous frame of mind which enabled 
me to see a side of his disposition that under ordinary 
conditions would never have come to the surface. One 
of the courses of this dinner of dinners was a chicken, 
provided out of deference to my European tastes, and 
Inchie carved it. It was a muscular bird ; but Inchie 

182 



A TOY-SHOP 



Workers 

carved it with a pair of large chopsticks as I have 
never seen a chicken carved before in any part of the 
globe. Not even Joseph of the Savoy with his flourish 
of fork and knife in mid-air could compete with Inchie 
and his pair of wooden chopsticks. No knives nor 
fingers were used ; but the whole was limbed, cut up, 
and served in less than the period that Joseph would 
take in his skilled dexterity. 

I remarked upon his skill in handling the chopsticks, 
and Inchie at once suggested that we should all have a 
competition to see who could pick up the greatest 
amount of peas with chopsticks in the shortest possible 
time. Each was given a lacquer tray with carefully 
numbered green peas, cold and cooked — the number 
according to the proficiency of the player. Inchie's 
plate was loaded ; the guests and geishas had a fair 
amount ; but I had only three, and the aim was to pick 
them up one by one and put them into our mouths, 
the competitor whose plate was empty first being 
declared the winner. We started, and I was so intent on 
the manipulation of my three green peas that I was only 
conscious of a whirl of hands, never having noticed that 
the rest had finished their pile before I had picked up 
my second pea. I never undertook such a task before, 
nor ever will again. The discouragement of it was finaL 
My first pea, after no little exertion and much sleight of 
hand, I had raised to my lips on the points of the chop- 
sticks, when just at the critical moment it abruptly left its 
moorings, went like a shot from a catapult across the 
room, and settled itself on the lap of one of the geishas, 

183 



Japan 

who was thereby promptly put out of the contest. I 
do not know what happened to the second pea, much less 
of the fate of the third ; all I remember is that I came 
in a very bad last in the chopstick competition. 

What with the Saki, the competition, and the dinner, 
Inchie became more and more brilliant, until at last an 
idea sparkled out that was worthy of his distinction. I 
was to have a piece of wood-carving in my London 
house that should be as it were the eye of the peacock 
— the first ever made in Japan ! We should go to 
Osaka together, he remarked, the very next day, choose 
a great piece of wood 8 or 9 feet in length, 3 feet broad, 
and about 6 inches through, and have it carved in the 
most beautiful and magnificent chrysanthemum pattern 
ever seen — for the hall was of chrysanthemums. His 
eyes sparkled as he said, " You are going to have berry 
number one house ; must have one big number one 
piece chrysanthemum carving — better than any other 
carving, better than temple carving." The Saki passed 
round, the geishas danced, and Inchie talked, while 
with every cup he grew brighter and brighter, and his 
eyes sparkled like jewels. I was beginning to see the 
real Inchie. Was this really the little man, the laughing- 
stock of the hotel, bullied and sworn at by every one ? 
He talked of Hookosai, who, he asserted, was not the 
great master that he is universally considered to be in 
Europe. Hookosai was too realistic ; many other 
artists were far finer. Yet another cup of Saki was 
passed round and drained. " I will demonstrate some 
Hookosai pictures," said little Inchie, in a tone of 

184 



A SWEET-STUFF STALL 



Workers 

suppressed excitement ; and, stepping behind a screen 
as he spoke, reappeared almost immediately with a 
handkerchief rolled round his head and his kimono 
tucked up, posing in the attitude of one of the most 
celebrated of Hookosai's pictures. Twenty or thirty 
pictures were represented, and in each he was a different 
man merely by changing the muscles of his face. Never 
have I seen such acting in my life ; he was like a gallery 
of Hookosai's pictures rolled into one, with all their 
queer exaggeration. 

More Saki was drunk, and later in the evening 
Inchie became so excited that, in order to work off 
his condition, he made the remarkable proposal that 
he should show me a devil dance. When he emerged 
from behind the screen, the geishas were frightened 
and drew back in alarm ; for he was no longer the 
gentle little monkey merchant, but a real devil. As 
for the dancing, I never saw anything so superbly 
fine ! It almost took my breath away. He seemed 
almost superhuman, an ethereal creature. 

The evening ended up in the usual way. Next 
morning Inchie came round to my hotel, sat down 
on a chair looking amazingly sheepish, and blinked 
solemnly at me. " Well, what's up now, Inchie ? " I 
inquired, seeing that he had something to say. " Berry 
number one bad night last night, Sir," moaned Inchie 
with a shake of his head. " I no want you to tell 
people I do the devil dance last night. They no 
understand and berry much talk. Please, I beg you 
not tell ! ' And poor little Inchie went about for 

185 



Japan 

days with a drooping head, looking the picture of 
misery. But in my opinion, he had no reason to 
be ashamed of his conduct ; he had shown himself 
to be a versatile genius. He had acted as I never 
before have seen a man act ; he had also danced as 
I have never seen a man dance ; and he had drunk 
as I have never seen a man drink without becoming 
badly affected. Nevertheless, this was the man who 
had allowed himself, and was allowing himself, to be 
sworn at, bullied, and even kicked by the common sorts 
and by the vulgar globe-trotters. 

The day following the night of the never-to-be- 
forgotten dinner, Inchie and I went, as we had 
intended, to Osaka to choose a fine and sufficiently 
well-seasoned piece of wood for this famous and all- 
important wood-carving, the eye of the peacock. I 
think we must have visited every timber-yard in Osaka 
in search of a fitting plank, and it was too funny to 
see the way Inchie would crawl over a piece of wood, 
like the small monkey that he was, scratching, rubbing, 
picking it with his nail, and even putting his tongue 
upon it to test its quality. At last a plank was found 
that was declared to be " berry number one," and the 
great undertaking, the work of carving it, began. Five 
men were at work on it for five months. And now 
that it is completed and fixed in my chrysanthemum 
hall, it is a triumph! It is a joy — it is a possession ! 
At the same time, when we were in Osaka, Inchie 
was struck with another brilliant idea. I must have 
a gong, he said, a superb gong ; and as Inchie himself 

186 



OSAKA 



A* ■ I ■ I 




Workers 

had once been a metal-worker, he was an excellent 
judge of gongs and undertook to choose one for 
me. Before that day I had no notion that there 
could be such a vast difference in gongs. We went 
to about twenty or thirty stores in Osaka, at each of 
which several gongs were produced for our inspection. 
And Inchie bounded about the shop like a cat or a 
leopard, from one corner of the room to the other, 
crouching down on the ground with his hand over 
his ear, striking each in turn, and listening to its 
vibration. " No berry good that," he would whisper 
to me, and then, talking charmingly to the merchant, 
— for Inchie was always charming — he would bow 
himself gracefully out of the shop. At each store 
in turn the same thing happened, until at last we 
reached a shop which seemed to me still more 
improbable than the rest, for it was a dirty little 
hole of a place, with no such thing as a gong in 
sight. In reply to our usual question the proprietor 
dived into a tangled bit of garden at the back, and 
presently reappeared with an old rusty gong, very 
thin with age and use and exposure to all weathers, 
and looking not worth twopence. Inchie struck it, 
and the expression on his face was extraordinary as 
he looked round at me. The tone was superb. This 
was the gong of gongs ! " That berry number one," 
he exclaimed in a stage whisper. We secured the 
gong for a few cents. " Big-pockety man no berry 
clever, I think," remarked Inchie pensively. 

It was on the day of my last visit to his store before 

187 



Japan 

sailing for England, and Inchie was very sad, very earnest, 
and very anxious to give me the best possible advice 
as to what to do in the way of selling when I arrived 
at my " store," as he termed it, in England. " When 
big-pocket man come to Japan, every merchant know, 
and all wait for him," said Inchie, by way of demonstrat- 
ing to me how very easy it was to entrap a rich man into 
buying one's goods. Inchie also told me the follow- 
ing story of how two big-pockety men once fared at 
the hands of a very subtle merchant. He was a Tokio 
merchant, and directly he heard of their probable arrival 
he sent experienced guides to almost every port in Japan 
to waylay these arrivals. They were eventually caught 
at Kiobe, and were led all over Japan by a remarkably 
efficient guide, in due course reaching Tokio. After 
visiting many curio stores they were safely landed at 
the store of the master exactor. Then the trickery 
developed. The merchant began to flatter and compli- 
ment the richer of the two, and knowing that they were 
anxious to buy gold lacquer he said : " You are a 
great connoisseur on gold lacquer, I believe. They tell 
me that you have a quick eye for fine work, and I have 
heard much of your appreciation of Japanese art." The 
big-pockety man was thus won over into a limp and 
restful condition, for no one can flatter to such good 
advantage as the Japanese. 

Meantime the guide was walking about the shop with 
his mouth wide open and looking silly. He was there 
to protect the two men, and the keenest observer could 
never have guessed that he was in reality the agent of 

188 



A CANAL IN OSAKA 



Workers 

this merchant. " I want your guide to take you round 
to all the gold lacquer shops you can, for I know that 
that is what you appreciate and love so much. After 
you have seen all that the merchants can show you, 
come back to me and see what you think of my 
specimens." All this time he was toying with a little 
insignificant-looking gold lacquer tray, turning it about 
under the rich man's very nose in such a way that he 
was bound to notice it. " We Japanese are so clever, 
you know, and we are such good imitators of lacquer 
that even I, a Japanese, am liable at times to be mis- 
led by some of the deceptions. But," continued the 
merchant in an off-hand manner, " there is one sure test 
of real gold lacquer, and that is the fire test." So saying 
he carelessly lit a match and allowed it to play all over 
the gold lacquer tray ; then quietly and without any 
demonstration he handed it to the rich man and begged 
him to observe that it was not harmed in any way, 
taking it for granted that he, the rich man, naturally 
knew of the fire test. 

The big-pocket man puckered his fat brow critically — 
he really knew nothing about it — and rubbed his greasy 
palm over the surface of the lacquer. The difference 
between the hands of the two men was a characteristic 
study — one big and flabby, the other slim and sinuous 
with fingers that almost turned back in their energy. 
After examining the tray closely the visitor admitted 
that it was in truth untouched. The master exactor 
smiled, and, like the rogue he was, never referred to it 
again. The two rich men went away with their guide 

189 



Japan 

and visited half a dozen other stores in Tokio, trying 
the fire test on all the gold lacquer they could find, with 
disastrous consequences. 

They had to pay for damages wherever they went, 
and wherever they went the merchants were indignant, 
for real gold lacquer, as every one knows, will not stand 
such treatment unless it happens to be a flat tray. But 
the rich men only chuckled at their superior knowledge 
and paid the damages without a murmur. Then they 
went back to the store of the evil prompter and did 
exactly as he expected they would do ; they bought 
ten thousand pounds' worth of gold lacquer, all of which 
was " berry number one imitation gold lacquer," as 
Inchie remarked. "Well, but, Inchie, I couldn't treat 
people like that." I told the little man " I shouldn't 
know how." " But I will show you how to sell," 
quoth Inchie : "I show you how to sell two-cent blue 
porcelain pot in your store for two hundred dollars to 
big-pockety man" ; whereupon Inchie proceeded to give 
me a lesson in the art of selling. He first brought 
out a nest of six lacquer boxes that fitted one into 
the other ; then he held up the two-cent porcelain pot, 
— and the way he handled it made it already begin to 
appear valuable in my eyes. I truly believe that Inchie 
could stroke out a piece of newspaper and make it seem 
as rare as a bank-note. Then this little genius wrapped 
the worthless blue porcelain in yellow silk, and placed 
it in the smallest lacquer box, which with its lid he 
secured inside a larger box, and so on until the entire 
six boxes and their lids encased his gem. Placing it 

190 



UMBRELLAS AND COMMERCE 



Workers 

upon the table, he began to explain how I should sell 
it, and in order to describe the subtlety of the transaction 
I must give it in Inchie's own words : " Big-pockety 
man come your store in England and he say, ' Mr. 
Menpes, you bought number one curio in Japan ? ' 
You say, ' No buy curio in Japan,' but you talk much 
to him of all the beautiful things you see in Japan. 
After a time you look on the ground and think — much 
you show you think. Big-pockety man look at you 
and he no talk. You look up quick and you say, ' Oh, 
number one curio I buy Japan, I remember ! ' He 
say, 'Please show me curio.' 'Never I show curio,' 
you tell him. ' I buy number one curio, but I no want 
to show.' Then you talk to him about Japan, all the 
streets and the theatres you see in Japan ; but all the 
time he talk of curio — ' I ber-ry much want to see,' he 
say. You say, ' You friend, you number one friend ? 
Very well, I show.' After having thus given way you 
must go upstairs and look for the curio, and — Inchie 
laid a stress upon this last statement — " you must be a 
long time finding it. When you come back you place 
the large lacquer box containing the five smaller boxes 
and the Buddha's eye — the Holy of Holies — upon the 
table, and much you begin to talk about Japan, berry 
like American lady talk I think ; you no talk to him 
then about porcelain. After much talk about beautiful 
blossom you take out one box ; then you talk more 
and take out another box — gentleman he ber-ry much 
want to see. When you come to final piecee box he 
berry much excited, and when you take out the porcelain 

191 



Japan 

and yellow silk you berry berry quiet — no artistic to 
talk now. Then you drop the corners of the silk and 
look at the porcelain. You no talk, big-pockety man 
no talk ; he no understand this — berry funny. Some- 
body must talk, all quiet ; you rest long time no talk, 
and big -pockety man say, 'Berry much number one 
curio that I think — how much you sell ? ' You say, 
' I no sell. Berry much money that costee me Japan, 
much ricksha, much hotel. Number one Chinese 
porcelain that. Number one glaze. I no sell.' " And to 
cut the story short I must explain that " the big-pockety 
man" — that is the millionaire — is by this time in a 
perfect fever to possess my priceless blue porcelain, and, 
Inchie says, here I must weaken, and after asking him if 
he is " daimio gentleman number one," I must allow 
him to buy my two-cent vase for two hundred dollars. 

In giving me this important lesson in the art of 
selling, Inchie considered that he had shown me the 
truest mark of friendship, and that he had given me 
the most valuable present in his power, and far more 
useful than any jewel could be. 

Towards the end of the work, when the house was 
nearly completed, and I had entertained mentally almost 
every friend I knew, and had missed nothing from the 
door-mat to the red lacquer soup bowls on the dining- 
room table, I suddenly remembered the door-knocker. 
There was no door-knocker ! I immediately interviewed 
Inchie and asked him to help me to design a door- 
knocker. Seeing that the only doors they have in Japan 
are sliding ones made of tissue paper, it was some time 

192 



WET WEATHER 






Workers 

before Inchie could comprehend my meaning. " I no 
understand why you want to knock at the door. Very 
funny that ! " he said. I explained that in England it 
was necessary to have very strong doors which one could 
not leave open lest people should come in and steal. 
He blinked his little eyes and looked up at me 
intelligently: "I understand!" he exclaimed, "berry 
number one bad Chinaman come and steal." " No," 
I said, " not Chinaman, but Englishman." " I no under- 
stand," he repeated. After much pantomime and talk I 
at last conveyed to him a fairly good idea of what was 
needed in the way of a door-knocker, and sent him home 
to work out some suitable design. Three days after he 
came back carrying under his arm a huge roll of draw- 
ings, which he proceeded to unfold on the floor. A 
glance was enough to show me that the little fellow had 
not got hold of the kind of door-knocker I required, 
and I watched him with a limp and hopeless feeling. " Go 
on, Inchie : explain it," I said. He was in very good 
condition this morning — pleased with himself and the 
world in general, and more especially with his door- 
knocker design. Drawing in his breath with a little 
satisfied hiss, he began : " Now, you see, you first put on 
the door a large chrysanthemum in bronze," and Inchie 
went through the performance in pantomime. " In the 
centre of this chrysanthemum a rod of steel must be fixed 
five inches in length. Suspended from the rod of steel 
must be a silk cord about five inches in length, and 
attached to the cord a marble about the size of a child's 
playing marble. Underneath the large chrysanthemum, 
13 193 



Japan 

and in line with the marble, should be placed another 
chrysanthemum with a miniature gong in the centre 
three-quarters of an inch in diameter." " Wait a bit, 
Inchie," I cried, for this description was too much for 
me — I must digest it more slowly. I pictured to myself 
the strings of children that pass and repass my house in 
Cadogan Gardens on their way to and from school, and 
their feelings concerning this small metal ball waving in 
the soft wind of a summer's afternoon on its apple- 
green cord. It would be too gorgeous an attraction by 
far ! No child could have the heart to destroy so rare 
a thing at once, it would be far too great a joy ; they 
would save it at least until their return journey from 
school before even touching it. Seeing that the small 
man was becoming a little offended, I said, " Fire away, 
Inchie, — what next?" "Well, when you come home 
after dinner, you take the marble and hold it five inches 
from the gong. You shut one eye and take aim ; then 
you let go, and he goes ping ! ping ! and gentleman he 
come and open the door." " No, he doesn't, Inchie," 
I shouted : " you're wrong there — the gentleman doesn't 
open the door." " I no understand," said little Inchie, 
his face falling, — " why he no open the door ? ' " Be- 
cause," I explained, " when you come home late at night 
after dinner you must have very sure habits of taking 
aim in order to strike that miniature gong three-quarters 
of an inch in diameter." Inchie looked up at me with 
bright pathetic little eyes, and said, " Berry fine daimio 
door-knocker this, and it is not difficult for you to strike. 
I no understand ! ' Then I took him on one side, not 

194 



PLAYFELLOWS 



Workers 

wanting to hurt his feelings, and explained to him how 
almost impossible it would be for a man coming home 
after dinner, having walked hurriedly and all that, to 
take aim at his miniature gong. " You told me you could 
shoot a rifle," was Inchie's reply. After that there was no 
more to be said, for I realised that one must necessarily 
be a rifle shot before you could get home at nights. 

The last I ever saw of poor little Inchie was when 
he came on board the P. and O. steamer at Yokohama 
to see me off on my journey to England. The 
authorities would not allow him to lunch with me in 
the saloon, and the poor little fellow, who was far more 
refined and certainly had far more intelligence than any 
one on board, captain and officers included, was compelled 
to eat his luncheon standing up in the steward's pantry, 
which hurt his feelings terribly. The only figure that 
I seemed to see in the mist that enwrapped Yokohama 
wharf was poor little Inchie standing there in his blue 
kimono and quaint bowler hat, watching me with eager 
blinking eyes that had a suspicion of moisture about 
them, and lips that twitched slightly ; and the last thing 
I heard was, " I think when you go to England you send 
me berry many letters — often you send me." And I 
felt as the steamer moved away that I had lost a good 
and a true friend. 

When the decorations for my house arrived in 
London, the next and all important question to be con- 
sidered was how to put them up. Everything was 
finished and ready to fix in its place without nails, and 
the only thing left to be completed by the British work- 

195 



Japan 

men was the slight wooden beams and square framework 
in which the carved panels were to be fixed. I secured 
five or six good workmen, and literally taught them how 
to handle this material, but it took them two years to put 
up what my Japanese craftsmen had produced in one year. 
It was all straightforward clean design, and there was no 
artistic effort needed for it ; but the obstacle was that they 
always struggled to make the woodwork a little thicker 
than necessary. Their inclinations were always to 
strengthen things, and it took a great deal of persever- 
ance and patience to uproot their fixed ideas. Then I 
had a great deal of trouble with the painters. At first 
they almost refused to put distemper on my walls. 
Strings upon strings of painters I was compelled to 
dismiss because they would persist in putting what they 
called " body " into the paint. Sometimes they would 
slip it in behind my back ; but I always detected it and 
dismissed the men on the instant. It was the only way. 
" Well, I've been in the trade for thirty years and I've 
always used body " — they all said that, and every 
workman I have ever employed, or is yet to be employed, 
always says the same. No matter how young or how 
old they may be, they have always been in the trade for 
thirty years. One painter I educated sufficiently to 
allow of him going so far against his principles as to 
leave out " body," but when I ordered him to mix oil 
and water by beating them together in a tub he declined 
and left. The only men whom I was able to persuade 
to do this for me were my foreman and one of the 
carpenters. The foreman was a very intelligent little 

196 



BUYING SWEETS 




II 



*JA% % t&** 







Workers 

man, whom I had educated to such an extent that his 
views of life and of workmen in general were entirely 
changed. He sneered at them, and was altogether so 
won over to my ideas that I am afraid I totally destroyed 
him for any other work. The painter, on the other 
hand, had no intelligence at all, but was equally devoted, 
and I feel quite sure that those two poor operatives are 
drifting about now doing anything but their respective 
trades of carpentry and painting. They undertook the 
beating of the oil and water very energetically, and kept 
it up for days, relieved occasionally by the caretaker. 
Eventually the oil did mix, and the experiment was a 
great success. Towards the end of their training these 
men became so accustomed to looking at things, if not 
feeling them, from the decorative standpoint, that it was 
no unusual occurrence to overhear such remarks as the 
following. The foreman would say to his pal as he 
caught sight of the reflection of his grimy face in a 
mirror : " I say, Bill, my flesh tone looks well against 
this lemon yellow, don't it? " or " I suppose I must start 
and wash off this toney " — toney meaning dirt, but to 
call it dirt would be to their enlightened minds vulgar 
in the extreme. Everything with them was " tone." 

A few days before they left for good I overheard a 
conversation between Bill and his mate, who had begun 
to feel the hopelessness of attempting work of a different 
nature. " What shall we do, Bill, when this blooming 
job's over? " said the foreman. " I suppose we shall go 
a-'opping ! " replied Bill. It was then just about the 

hopping season. 

197 



YOUTH AND AGE 



CHARACTERISTICS 






LOOKERS-ON 







,:r 






CHAPTER XI 



CHARACTERISTICS 



Perhaps one of the most admirable features in the 
character of the Japanese is their great power of 
self-control. The superficial observer on his first 
visit to Japan, because of this very quality of theirs, 
is at first liable to imagine that the Japanese have 
no emotion. This is a mistake. I have lived with 
them ; I know them through and through ; and 
I know that they are a people of great emotions, 
emotions that are perhaps all the deeper and stronger 
because they are unexpressed. Self-control is almost 
a religion with the Japanese. In their opinion it is 
wrong and selfish to the last degree to inflict one's 
sorrows and one's cares upon other people. The world 
is sad enough, they argue, without being made sadder 
by the petty emotions of one's neighbour : so the people 
of Japan all contrive to present a gay and happy 
appearance to the outside world. You may express your 
feelings in the solitude of your own room, and there is 
no doubt that the Japanese suffer terribly among them- 
selves, although a stranger, and especially a European, 
will never detect a trace of it. 

201 



Japan 

I once went to call, with a resident of Japan, on an 
old Japanese lady, to condole with her on the loss of 
her husband and her only son, who had both been swept 
away, with thousands of others, in a great tidal wave 
only a few days previously. As we neared the house 
we saw, through the partially-opened sliding door, the 
old woman rocking herself to and fro in an agony of 
sorrow, literally contending with emotion, and sufFering 
as I have never seen a human being suffer before. I 
was terribly shocked, and we naturally hesitated for 
some time before announcing ourselves ; but by the 
time the mourner appeared at the door to greet us, she 
was all smiles. It was difficult to believe that she 
was the same woman. Her face shone with radiant 
happiness, and all traces of sorrow had disappeared. 
In the course of the conversation she did not avoid 
the sore subject, but rather chose it, and talked 
of the death of her husband and her son with a smil- 
ing face and an expression by which one might very 
pardonably have judged that she had no feelings what- 
ever. This was self-control indeed, and it is only in 
Japan that one encounters such striking illustrations of 
superb pluck and endurance. 

In my opinion, this great self-control is an evidence 
of the very high standard of civilisation of the Japanese. 
If one is at all observant and really in sympathy with 
the people, one is continually catching glimpses of their 
real natures and instances of their magnificent self- 
command. Once I was talking to a little Japanese 
merchant, along with some friends whom I had taken 

202 



SUNDOWN 



nHHMMHMMMBnglBHWMflttffittNiffilHBMHBHBIBIHflfi 




Characteristics 

round to his store to buy curios. I had made quite a 
friend of this man, and knew him well. We were all 
chaffing him about getting married, and one of my 
friends said to him, " Well, why don't you get married ? 
But perhaps you have already got a wife ! " The little 
man looked up quickly with a smile on his face, and 
said — " Me married already ; me wife die two years 
past ; two children die two years past ; all die, I think." 
The voice was perfectly steady, and the face smiling, as 
he uttered this amazingly sad statement ; but some one 
chanced to look up and saw two great tears standing in 
his little monkey-like eyes. Of course he was "no 
class," and, not being an actual workman, but only a 
merchant, he was considered to be of rather a low grade. 
Still, for this slight show of emotion, he had utterly 
disgraced himself in his own eyes, and would afterwards, 
no doubt, atone for it by torturing himself in private. 

I saw many remarkable instances of the self-control of 
the Japanese people when I visited the scenes of desola- 
tion caused from that great tidal wave which destroyed 
nearly three thousand people. Village after village I 
visited, some of them with only three or four living 
inhabitants left ; but in no case, with men, women, or 
children, did I see the slightest trace of emotion. Here 
and there, indeed, you passed a woman huddled up in 
a corner muttering and screaming, but only because her 
mind had become unhinged by the loss of her home, or 
probably village, and every relation she possessed. No 
Japanese in his senses would amid the same circum- 
stances be guilty of so much as a murmur or a tear. 

203 



Japan 

The Japanese are a brave people — not only the men, 
but the women too. In fact, the women more especi- 
ally are brave. Many women destroyed themselves 
during the China-Japanese war, because their husbands 
had been killed in battle. There was one Japanese 
woman in Tokio who felt so deeply the disgrace 
placed upon her country by the attempt on the life 
of the present Emperor of Russia some years ago 
by a common coolie, that she committed suicide. 
She felt that this great European prince had visited 
her country as a guest, and that before Japan could 
raise its head once more the nation must make some 
great sacrifice. Day after day she visited the Legation, 
and begged to be allowed admission to some of the 
high officials — in vain : they were too busy to see 
her. At last, after some weeks of fruitless effort, 
she went home in despair and killed herself, leaving 
a pathetic little letter to the Minister stating that 
she hoped that the sacrifice of her life might in some 
way help to cleanse her country from its disgrace. 

Patriotism is a strong trait in the character of the 
Japanese ; but perhaps their imagination and their 
love of Nature are even stronger, and at all events 
will cause them to bound forward and become a first- 
rate power. This universal force of the imagination 
is a quality that no other nation possesses, and it is 
a quality that will cause her, not so very many 
years hence, to dominate the world. All the Japanese 
possess imagination, from the highest to the lowest ; 
it is shown in every action and detail of their daily 

204 



FLYING BANNERS 



Characteristics 

life. There is no one of them, even to the poorest 
coolie, who has not some little collection of exquisite 
works of the art that he loves. Your jinricksha man, 
if you were ever allowed the privilege of visiting his 
house, would in all probability be able to show you 
one or two choice specimens, either in china or in 
bronze, of his household gods. And so strongly is 
the love of Nature impressed within him that he 
cannot pass a beautiful scene — a hillside of blossom, 
or a sunset — without stopping his ricksha to allow 
you also the privilege of enjoying it. Often when 
taking a drive in the country he will suddenly stop 
in front of some delightful scene, put down your 
ricksha, and, taking from his kimono sleeve a little 
roll of rice wrapped in a dainty bamboo leaf, will 
sit down and begin to eat it with his chopsticks, 
continuing to gaze at the scene, every now and 
then looking up at you for sympathy. If you are 
an artist, and will look at the scene intelligently and 
appreciatively, this little ricksha man will be your 
slave for life and will do anything for you. 

Men are esteemed in Japan in proportion to their 
artistic capabilities, and not for their banking accounts. 
It is in this quality of imagination that we Britishers 
are deficient. Our lack of imagination will be the cause 
of the decline of our Empire, if it does decline. 

Then, the Japanese are a polite people. If you 
give a present to some little child, a mite strapped 
to the back of a sister that is scarcely bigger than 
itself, you are almost sure to find that little child 

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Japan 

waiting for you on your return to your hotel with 
some small trifle to offer you ; and this little one 
will bow to you from its rather awkward position 
with all the grace imaginable. Two coolies sweeping 
the roads, when meeting for the first time in the 
day, will lay down their brooms and salute each 
other before passing on their way to work. 

I have had many experiences, when sketching the 
streets of Japan, of the people's politeness. A police- 
man becoming interested in my work would help to 
keep clear a space in the road, and never dream of 
overlooking my work or of embarrassing me in any 
way. In one street of a village he actually had the 
traffic turned down another way, so as not to interfere 
with my sketching. Fancy a policeman in England 
diverting the traffic simply because an artist wanted 
to sketch a meat shop ! 

One of the most remarkable illustrations of the 
native politeness that I have ever witnessed was in 
Tokio. A man pulling along a cart loaded high up 
with boughs of trees chanced to catch the roof of a 
coolie's house in one of his pieces of timber, tearing 
away a large portion of it (for a roof is a very slim 
affair in Japan). The owner of the house rushed out 
thoroughly upset, and began to expostulate, and to 
explain how very distressing it was to have one's 
roof torn off in this manner. No doubt if he had 
been a Britisher he would have used quaint language ; 
but there are no " swear words " in the Japanese 
language — they are too polite a people. The abused 

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HONEYSUCKLE STREET 



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Characteristics 

one stood calmly, with arms folded, listening to the 
harangue, and saying nothing. Only, when the enraged 
man had finished, he pointed to the towel which in his 
haste the coolie had forgotten to take off his head. At 
once the coolie realised the enormity of his offence. 
Both hands flew to the towel, and tore it off in con- 
fusion, the coolie bowing to the ground and offering 
humble apologies for having presumed to appear 
without uncovering his head. For in Japan one must 
always uncover, whether to a sweep or to a Mikado. 
The two parted the best of friends. One had been 
impolite enough to forget to uncover ; the other had 
torn away a roof. The rudeness of the one balanced 
the injury of the other. Thus are offences weighed in 
Japan. 



THE END 



This ivork has been entirely produced in this country, Messrs. Carl Hentschel, Limited, 
London, having engraved the illustrations, and printed them in conjunction with 
Messrs. R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh, tuho have also printed the letterpress. 



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